Distinguishing between ephiphytes in Aotearoa

Kia ora rā tātou. Bit of a rookie question. How do you tell the difference between kowharawhara (Astelia solandri), kahakaha (Astelia hastata & I think its alpine relative Astelia microspermum?), and kiekie (Freycinetia banksii)? I feel like it’s kiekie if it has the woody stems hanging down (or rather growing up?), but so far that’s as far as I’ve got…


This site has descriptions that you could compare:

And the online version of the NZ Flora work, which attempts to catalogue all present species in New Zealand, wether native or introduced:

Another option would be to go to the taxon(s) in iNat, and look for the top 10 identifiers for each. Any that appear on all three would be good candidates to send a direct message to asking about how to tell the differences.

kia kaha

Kiekie is a branching plant, so while the leaves are produced in tufts at the ends of the branches, the plant itself can be massive, climbing up tall trees like rimu and kahikatea, or it might sprawl across a bank. If you see a ‘stem’, you’ve got kiekie. Also, at a closer level, kiekie leaves have toothed margins - you’ll feel the teeth if you run your finger along the leaf margin (Astelia leaf margins are untoothed.).

The Astelia species are all tufted plants, with no stems. Astelia solandri has a whitish bloom at the base of its fan of leaves. Also the leaves are folded, like most Astelia. Astelia hastata and A. microsperma both have a blackish tinge at the base of their fan of leaves. And their leaves are channeled, forming a U shape in cross-section (cf. the V shape of A. solandri).

Astelia plants can grow in big colonies, so do look for the stems of kiekie to distinguish it.

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