Characteristics of Pohutukawa Tree (Metrosideros excelsa) in the Wild

Metrosideros excelsa
Pohutukawa or New Zealand Christmas tree is one of 12 endemic New Zealand Metrosideros species. This tree is famous for its bright color and ability to survive. The pohutukawa tree is important in New Zealand culture because of its beauty and is considered the main tree “rākau rangatira” by Māori. When a flower on a tree blooms, it is called Kahika.

The natural habitat of the pohutukawa tree is the coastal area of ​​the North Island in New Zealand, north of the line that runs from New Plymouth to Gisborne.

In the 1990s, pastoral agriculture and pests caused pohutukawa forests to decrease by more than 90%. This also occurs naturally on the shores of the lake in the Rotorua region and Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island.

The giant pohutukawa tree is in Te Araroa on the East Coast which is known as the largest pohutukawa tree in the country, with a height of 20 meters and a spread of branches 38 meters to various sides.

The pohutukawa tree is also known as a cliff dweller, it can maintain its root grip in an almost vertical situation. The pohutukawa tree has shown itself to be able to live in various types of soil in the colonization of lava plains, especially on Rangitoto, a volcanic island in Hauraki Bay.

 

Characteristics of Pohutukawa Leaf

Metrosideros excelsa Leaf
Source : flickr.com/Tracey Stout

The leaves are oval, rough, and covered with thick white fur underneath.

 

Characteristics of Pohutukawa Flower

Metrosideros excelsa Flower
Source : flickr.com/Raino Lampinen

The flowers are deep red that covers almost the entire canopy of the tree when it blooms, hence it is dubbed the New Zealand Christmas tree. The flowering time is from November to January with a peak in mid to late December.

 

Characteristics of Pohutukawa Tree in the Wild

Metrosideros excelsa Tree
Source : flickr.com/Michael Schwab

Pohutukawa trees can grow as tall as 20-25 meters, with a spreading dome. The trunks and branches sometimes have tangled and fibrous air roots.

Pohutukawa trees have been introduced to other countries with moderate to warm climates, including southeast Australia, California, San Francisco, Spain, and parts of South Africa.

In its native habitat of New Zealand, the pohutukawa tree is under the threat of a common brushtail possum animal that cuts its leaves.

At present, there are at least 39 cultivars of pohutukawa trees that have been recorded. They are:

  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Aurea’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Blockhouse Bay’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Butterscotch’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Centennial’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Christmas Cheer’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Dalese’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Fire Mountain’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Firestone’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Flame Crest’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Gold Finger’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Golden Dawn’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Gold Nugget’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Hauraki’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Kopere’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Lighthouse’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Manukau’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Maori Princess’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Midas’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Mini Christmas’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Moon Maiden’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Mt Maunganui’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Octopussy’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Ohope’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Parnell’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Pink Lady’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Plus Four’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Pouawa’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Rangitoto’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Royal Flame’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Sunglow’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Tamaki’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Te Kaha’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Titirangi’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Upper Hutt’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Variegata’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Vibrance’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘Whakarewarewa’
  • Metrosideros excelsa ‘White Caps’

It is known that those with white flowers are rare and highly protected trees.

 
BENEFITS OF POHUTUKAWA TREE

Pohutukawa wood is dense, strong, and very patterned. Maori use it to make small items.

The wood is also often used in shipbuilding, due to its natural and strong curved shape.

 

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