Ti (Cordyline terminalis or Cordyline fruticosa)
The ti plant (also known as Cabbage Palm, Good Luck Plant, and Palm Lily) is a woody, palm-like plant that has unbranched stems with strap-like leaves often clustered at the tip of the stem. The leaves vary in color and may be glossy green, reddish purple, or marked with various combinations of red, purple, yellow, or white. The leaves grow to a length of 12-24 inches long and 2-4 inches wide at the top of the woody stem or may grow along the stem in younger plants. The yellowish to red, sweetly scented flowers that are produced on the mature plants grow at the plant’s top in large, plumelike clusters and mature into red berries. The ti may grow up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) tall.
Where to Find: Look for this plant at the margins of forests or near homesites in tropical areas. It is native to the Far East but is now widely planted in tropical areas worldwide. They grow well in partial shade to nearly full sun.
Edible Parts: The roots and very tender young leaves are good survival foods and are very sweet when mature. Boil or bake the short, stout roots found at the base of the plant. They are a valuable source of starch. Boil the very young leaves to eat. You can use the leaves to wrap other food, similar to the way corn husks are used to wrap tamales. Wrap the fillings in the leaves and cook over coals or steam.
Other Uses: Use the leaves as thatch to cover shelters or to make clothing (e.g. skirts, rain coats, sandals). The leaves make good liners for shoes and help prevent blisters on the foot. The terminal leaf, if not completely unfurled, can be used as a sterile bandage. Cut the leaves into strips, then braid the strips into rope.