Astelia is a small genus with three species occurring in Australia. Of these, A.alpina is the best known but, despite the common name, it is not a grass but is related to the lilies..
Astelia alpina is a perennial herb which forms large mats of closely growing plants in alpine bogs. It has tough, leathery leaves about 150 mm long by 15 mm wide tapering to a point. The leaves have “sheathing” bases…ie, the base of the leaf wraps completely around the stem. Flowering occurs in summer and, while the individual white or greenish flowers are small, they occur in clusters on spikes (racemes). They are followed by red, edible berries about 12 mm diameter which tend to be hidden in the foliage.
A.alpina is not often cultivated but should be suited to moist, peaty soils in full sun or partial shade. It may be difficult to maintain at low elevations and would be best grown in colder climates.
Propagation is from seed or by division of mature clumps.
Photo: Murray Fagg – Australian National Botanic Gardens