Once raised for food, now the Ti plant is an ornamental

Cordyline fruticosa: Food, Foliage, Booze

Simply called Ti (tee) Cordyline fruticosa spent most of its history with humans as a food, a source of alcohol, or a medicine. Now its foliage is in demand with many showy cultivars.  Ti is probably native to southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea. It was carried throughout much of the Pacific by Polynesians who used the starchy rhizomes for food. An outdoor ornamental in warmer areas of the Earth, today Ti is found naturalized in eastern Australia and many of the larger tropical Pacific islands, including the Hawaii.  It is a common potted plant in cooler climates. The point is you should be able to find it nearly everywhere, often with other people taking care of it for you. And if you are so inclined you can even make a Hula skirt out of it.

Ti's come in many colors

Boiled roots taste like molasses and were used to make a beer that was reported to cure scurvy. Some say the Hawaiians learned to distill Ti beer into a stronger brew from convicts in Botany Bay, Australia. Young leaves are used as a potherb. Older leaves are used to wrap food, make clothes, rain capes and for thatch. Use Ti leaves to wrap foods to be grilled, steamed or baked. Dried leaves should be soaked to soften before using.

One word of caution. Don’t confuse the Ti with the Dracaena. Ti leaves have a petiole (stem) arching out from the trunk or branch. Dracaena leaves clasp the trunk or branch.  Dracaena will also burn your mouth and hands.

Two species are regularly reported as food sources. C. fruticosa and C. australis. Cordyline (kor-dih-LYE-nee) means club-like, referring to the look of the roots. Fruticosa (froo-tee-KHO-sah) means fruit.  Australis (oss-TRAY-liss) means southern.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

Starcy roots are usually baked

IDENTIFICATION: Cordyline fruticosa is an evergreen shrub with a strong trunk which does not usually branch, 10 feet in height. Also a small house plant with colorful foliage, leaves 15-30 inches long, 4-6 inches wide, varying in color from shiny green to purple, red, yellow, purple and white. In mature plants, the leaves are tuft-like in appearance on the top of the stems, leaves along the stems with young pants. Flower fragrant, usually yellow or red, berry-like red fruit

TIME OF YEAR: Year round

ENVIRONMENT: Partial shade to nearly full sun, moist soil. Like humidity. Prefers water without Fluoride.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: C. australis: Young leaves and shoots eaten raw or roasted. Roots eaten or brewed after cooking. C. fruticosa. Roots cooked for food and brewing, young leaves cooked as a potherb. Also used to wrap food.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn Harding June 1, 2014 at 13:22

I also was wondering about the berries. Are they edible?


Max February 12, 2014 at 17:59

Hey Deane, I am in the Austin ares (9a) and I will be growing this in several locations as food, but I wanna know if the berries are also edible…are they?


Dan February 21, 2013 at 02:50

Deane what about the whole debate of what is terminalis and what is fruiticosa…I thought “Red Sister” was C. terminalis but cvs. like ‘Peter Buck’ or ‘Black Magic’ were fruiticosa. Either way Red Sister above is edible? What about Hawaiin and Jamaican Green…omg I cant wait to blanch them and shock them to see if they keep their color…You rock Deane, thank you so much


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