Tetragonia tetragonioides

Tetragonia tetragonioides (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Magnoliopsida
Ordo: Caryophyllales
Familia: Aizoaceae
Genus: Tetragonia
Species: Tetragonia tetragonioides


Tetragonia tetragonioides (Pall.) Kuntze


* Swedish Museum of Natural History, only in Swedish

Vernacular names
Ελληνικά: Aγριοσπανάκι
Svenska: Nyzeeländsk spenat
Türkçe: Yeni Zelanda ıspanağı

Tetragonia tetragonioides (or previously T.expansa) is a leafy groundcover also known as New Zealand Spinach, Warrigal Greens, Kokihi (Māori language), Sea Spinach, Botany Bay Spinach, Tetragon and Cook's Cabbage. It is native to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Chile and Argentina.

The species, rarely used by Māori or other indigenous people as a leaf vegetable, was first mentioned by Captain Cook. It was immediately picked, cooked, and pickled to help fight scurvy, and taken with the crew of the Endeavour. It spread when the explorer and botanist Joseph Banks took seeds back to Kew Gardens during the latter half of the 18th century.[1] For two centuries T.tetragonioides was the only cultivated vegetable that originated from Australia and New Zealand.

The species prefer a moist environment for growth. The plant grows flat on the ground. The leaves of the plant are 3–15 cm long, triangular in shape and bright green. The leaves are thick, and covered with tiny papillae that look like waterdrops on the top and bottom of the leaves. The flowers of the plant are yellow, and the fruit is a small, hard pod covered with small horns. The plant is a halophyte and grows well in saline ground.


It is grown for the edible leaves, and can be used as food or an ornamental plant for ground cover. As some of its names signify, it has similar flavour and texture properties to spinach, and is cooked like spinach, although it contains medium to low levels of oxalates which need to be removed by blanching the leaves in hot water for one minute, then rinsing in cold water before cooking. It can be found as an invasive plant in North and South America, and has been cultivated along the East Asian rim. It thrives in hot weather, and is considered an heirloom vegetable. Few insects will bother it, and even slugs and snails do not seem to bother it.

The thick, irregularly-shaped seeds should be planted just after the last spring frost. Before planting, the seeds should be soaked for 12 hours in cold water, or 3 hours in warm water. Seeds should be planted 5–10 mm deep, and spaced 15–30 cm apart. The seedlings will emerge in 10–20 days, and it will continue to produce greens through the summer.


1. ^ Low, T., Wild Food Plants of Australia, Angus & Robertson, 1991, ISBN 0-207-16930-6

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