Trees of New Zealand

Have you ever heard of pōhutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree? These amazing trees get their name from the beautiful red flowers that bloom on them annually in December. Legend tells of a young Māori warrior who searched for help in heaven to avenge his father's death. He falls to the earth to his own death, and the crimson red flowers of the pōhutukawa are reputed to represent his spilled blood.

The tree is known for its resilience.  A certain 800-year-old pōhutukawa tree clings, alone, to a windy cliff face near Cape Reinga, which is at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand. This is widely considered the most spiritually significant place for the Māori in the entire country. It’s believed all Māori spirits travel up the coast to the pōhutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua. They descend into the underworld (Reinga) by sliding down a root to the sea below, traveling underwater to the Three Kings Islands, then emerging on Ohaua, the islands' highest point. Here they bid final farewells before returning to the land of their ancestors. This lone tree has survived hundreds of years in a wind-beaten place, and no others surround it. The fact its roots have grown so deep and that it has held on for as long as it has is incredible.

New Zealand is home to many other amazing trees, including the giant coniferous kauri trees that grow in the north region. One of the largest kauri trees is named Te Matua Ngahere, which translates to “Father of the Forest.” It is estimated to be over 1500 years old, and is considered the second largest kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. The tallest in the reserve, standing at a towering 168 feet, is Tane Mahuta, named after the Māori god of forests and of birds.

Conservationists have determined that these fantastic trees can live to be 4000 years old. With all of the changes in the world that have taken place — and that these trees have withstood — it’s certain they could tell us some incredible stories! Can you imagine?

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