Cordyline australis grows up to 20 metres (66 feet) tall with a stout trunk 1.5 to 2 m (4 ft 11 in to 6 ft 7 in) in diameter. Before it flowers, it has a slender unbranched stem. The first flowers typically appear at 6 to 10 years old, in spring. The right conditions can reduce the first flowering age to 3 years (Havelock North, 2015 mast year). After the first flowering, it divides to form a much-branched crown with tufts of leaves at the tips of the branches. Each branch may fork after producing a flowering stem. The pale to dark grey bark is corky, persistent and fissured, and feels spongy to the touch. The long narrow leaves are sword-shaped, erect, dark to light green, 40 to 100 cm (16 to 39 in) long and 3 to 7 cm (1 to 3 in) wide at the base, with numerous parallel veins.The leaves grow in crowded clusters at the ends of the branches, and may droop slightly at the tips and bend down from the bases when old. They are thick and have an indistinct midrib. The fine nerves are more or less equal and parallel. The upper and lower leaf surfaces are similar. In spring and early summer, sweetly perfumed flowers are produced in large, dense panicles (flower spikes) 60 to 100 cm (24 to 39 in) long, bearing well-spaced to somewhat crowded, almost sessile to sessile flowers and axes. The flowers are crowded along the ultimate branches of the panicles. The bracts which protect the developing flowers often have a distinct pink tinge before the flowers open. In south Canterbury and North Otago the bracts are green.