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(New Zealand Flax family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: Although some references to the dermatologic use of Dianella and Phormium species in traditional medicine are to be found in the literature, those uses do not seem to have become widely established. •
• Adverse effects: There is a suggestion in the literature that calcium oxalate raphides in Phormium tenax can cause skin irritation, but this remains to be established. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

This is a small family of 7 genera comprising about 30 species of sub-shrubs and rhizomatous herbs, members of which occur naturally in warm regions of Australia and elsewhere in the southern hemisphere. The plants were until recently classified in the family Agavaceae and Liliaceae. Dianella L. is the principal genus, accounting for about 20 species (Mabberley 1997).

Many Dianella, Phormium J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., and Xeronema Brongn. & Gris. species and cultivars are grown as ornamentals (Hunt 1968/70). The best-known is probably Phormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., which also yields useful fibre (New Zealand flax).

Dianella ensifolia DC.
[syn. Dracaena ensifolia L.]
Umbrella Dracaena

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Phormium tenax J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.
New Zealand Flax, New Zealand Fibre Lily

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (1997) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • [ + 5 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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