Aciphylla horrida (Horrid Spaniard)
Species: Aciphylla horrida
Common name: Horrid Spaniard
Found only in New Zealand's South Island.
Aciphylla horrida is large alpine herb growing up to 1m in moist tussock herb field or open mountain shrubland. It belongs to the genus Aciphylla of the Umbelliferae (carrot family). They grow tussock-like clumps with large leaves which are deeply divided into hard, rigid segments tipped by needle-sharp spines.
The yellow flower stems grow to 1.5m in summer. The flower and the later seed, heads are dense, narrow and lance-like. These individual flower clusters are densely aggregated on the upper parts of the lances. These are exceeded in length by their associated bracts. These bracts have segments as spiny as those of the leaves consisting of thousands of little flowers surrounded by small spines.
It is suggested that the excessive spininess is a defence against browsing animals in pre-human times in New Zealand which would have been the moas.
The Maoris used a rope to pull the plant out of the ground to get the tubers for food. The rest of the plant was hung above a fire to extract a sweet-smelling resin that was used as chewing gum and the moulding of jewellery.
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