Dracophyllum subulatum


Dracophyllum: dragon leaf, from its likeness to the dragon tree of the Canary Islands
subulatum: awl-shaped

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Dracophyllum subulatum Hook.f.



Brief Description

Erect grassy shrub with many thin twigs bearing narrow grass-like wavy leaves inhabiting the central North Island. Leaves 10-48mm long by 0.5-1.2mm wide. Flowers white, in short (less than 13mm long) clusters of 2-4 flowers at the end of twigs.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Dracophyllum angustifolium Colenso


Endemic. New Zealand: North Island (Central Volcanic Plateau and adjacent ranges from about Rotorua and Te Kuiti south to near Taihape)


Dracophyllum subulatum is confined the the Central North Island Volcanic Plateau at altitudes of 100–1,220 m where it is associated with frost flats. It is virtually confined to pumiceous soils and rhyolitic tephra blanketing these. Dracophyllum subulatum is an important shrub of these habitats and where present it is usually dominant.


A multi–stemmed shrub 0.3–2.0 m tall. Branches: bark on old branches grey, smooth, young stems reddish to purplish brown. Leaves dimorphic. Juvenile leaves spirally arranged along branches, spreading; lamina sheath 4.5–6.5 × 2.5–3.0 mm, shoulders truncate to auricled and margin membranous with the upper half ciliate; lamina 18–45 × 1–2 mm, linear to rarely linear–triangular, adaxial surface with a patch of scabrid hairs at base; margins serrulate with 70–80 teeth per 10 mm. Adult leaves erect to spreading, olive to dark green; lamina sheath 2.5–6.5 × 2.0–4.0 mm, subcoriaceous, shoulders rounded to auricled and margins membranous, ciliate; lamina 10.0–48.0 × 0.5–1.2 mm, linear to linear–subulate, surfaces glabrous with a tuft of scabrid hairs at base on adaxial surface; margins serrulate with 90–120 teeth per 10 mm; apex triquetrous. Inflorescence a terminal spike on lateral branches; shorter than leaves, erect, dense, 5.3–12.3 mm long, linear–oblong; inflorescence bract over-topping flowers, 4–6 × 0.5–0.6 mm, ovate–lanceolate at base; margins serrulate. Flowers 2–6, sessile; flower bracts equaling to longer than flowers, foliose, 3.5–7.8 × 1.7–2.0 mm, broadly ovate, with a tuft of scabrid hairs at the apex; margins with a prominent broad and white margin, serrulate. Sepals 2.6–3.2 × 0.6–1.2 mm, lanceolate to ovate–lanceolate, longer than corolla tube; adaxial surface pubescent or only the top half pubescent; margins ciliate. Corolla white to light pink; corolla tube 1.8–2.0 × 1.0–1.2 mm, cylindrical; corolla lobes spreading horizontally to reflexed, 1.0–1.5 × 0.8–1.0 mm, triangular, shorter than corolla tube; apices acute; adaxial surface papillate. Stamens inserted in corolla tube in the upper third, filaments 0.1–0.2 mm long; anthers included, rectangular, light yellow and 0.7–0.8 mm long. Ovary obovate, 0.8–1.0 mm long and wide, apex truncate; nectary scales 0.4–0.5 × 0.3–0.4 mm, rectangular, apices retuse; style included, 0.5–1.0 mm long, glabrous; stigma clavate. Fruit 2.9–3.0 × 1.7–1.8 mm, oblong; apex truncate, glabrous. Seeds 1.0–1.2 mm long, yellowish brown, filiform, testa prominently reticulate

Similar Taxa

Dracophyllum subulatum is a North Island, Central Volcanic Plateau endemic. It is easily recognised by the slender branches, juvenile leaves, small (5.3–12.3 mm long) few flowered (2–6) inflorescences, flower bracts with a broad white margin, small corolla tubes (1.8–2.0 × 1.0–1.2 mm) and seeds with a prominently reticulate testa. Dracophyllum subulatum is perhaps most similar to D. palustre, certainly both species have the same white-margined flower bracts. From D. palustris D. subulatum differs in having juvenile leaves, and spicate inflorescences rather than solitary flowers. In D. subulatum the inflorescence bracts are notably longer than the flower not equaling them, they are also narrower (0.5–0.6 mm compared to 1.5–2.0 mm), while the sepals are longer and filiform rather than ovoid. The seed of D. subulatum is prominently reticulate while those of D. palustris are only slightly so.


November – March

Flower Colours



January - May

Propagation Technique

Difficult - should not be removed from the wild


Not Threatened. However, as a distinct vegetation type Dracophyllum subulatum dominated frost flat vegetation has declined markedly over the last 100 years with much of its former range now converted to pine plantation or farmland. It could also be argued that this species is threatened by the spread of heather (Calluna vulgaris).

Chromosome No.

2n = 26

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Minute seeds are wind dispersed (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Occasionally available from specialist native plant nurseries.



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (23 April 2012). Description adapted from Venter (2009)

References and further reading

Venter, S. 2009: A taxonomic revision of the genus Dracophyllum Labill. (Ericaceae). Unpublished Phd Thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 14 Aug 2014