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Tree Botanics

Pohutukawa Previous

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Other Names: (Metrosideros excelsa) = (ironwood/heart of iron-tall)

The pohutukawa is perhaps one of New Zealand's most magnificent trees, typically thought of as the NZ Christmas tree, and held in high regard nationwide. A member of the Myrtaceae (Myrtle) family the pohutukawa grows predominantly around coastlines and within coastal forests of the North Island on the volcanic plateau to approximately latitude 39 degrees S, developing into a large and spreading structure with pendulous limb networks forming the overall distinctive canopy aspect. The trunk ranges from 0.5m - 2.0m in girth, and sub-divides quickly within the growth cycle into a number of large main stems. The tree can reach up to 20m in overall physical height. The dark greyish bark is thick, grooved and stringy and peels off in long flakes as the tree matures. The distinctive thick, leathery leaves are ideally suited to coastal salt air approximately 2.5 - 10cm long X 1.5 - 5cm wide, deep green & shining/waxen on their upper surfaces, whilst the undersides are covered with a dense white tomentum (felt-like hair growth). Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this species are the vibrant flowers varying in colour from a bright to deep crimson with a yellow stamen containing copious amounts of nectar favoured by many native birds & geckos. Flowering from December approximately 8cm in diameter, the broad, terminal, many-flowered cymes (a usually flat-topped or convex flower cluster in which the main axis and each branch end in a flower that opens before the flowers below or to the side of it) are a most spectacular sight in the summer season. Fruits appear as woody capsules approximately 1cm long ripening the following spring. The silvery appearance is a feature of buds, new growth and seed capsules. Timber is of great strength & durability & its naturally bent branch structures were formerly used extensively in boat building.