The metrosideros excelsa, in maori pōhutukawa, is an evergreen tree that blossoms in the sea land from November to February depending on climate condition, when here stays alive practically only pines.It blossoms in all the country but mainly along the coast-line of the North Island (from Plymouth to Gisborne; worth of mentioning is the Pōhutukawa Coast, situated East of Auckland and North-East of Manuaku), but you can find North of Taranaki and Poverty Bay too and it also spreads around the South Island. Shortly said, it prefers hot and wet areas close to the sea but, despite this, it’s able to bear strong wind, salty spray and drought.
Pōhutukawa is famous (maybe here not too much, but at least for who is reading it is going to be from now on) for its crimson flowers with a “brush shape”, caused by the shape of its stamens. The flowers are not particularly big, but the massive tree can be 20 meters height and even reach 35 metres. This tree is provided with a big trunk and equally big roots, that help it to remain firmly attached even to coastal cliffs.
There are various kinds of metrosideros (six are trees and six are vines): among these there are trees with flowers that are similar to pōhutukawa but with different colour, as yellow or pink. Pōhutukawa has, on the contrary, red flowers formed by stamens ranging from 4 to 7cm lenght that terminate with yellow dots. There are many
variants species and hybrids of pōhutukawa too, but they are all very close to the original one, so I won’t go into details.
Leaves are, instead, dark green that almost turn blue above and white covered by a dense white fluff below. In the period when they’re still small, they’re entirely covered by fur while, when adults, their surface become straight and more protective, and the hair remains below, useful to reduce the water loss from the little pores of the leaf. The young leaves live more or less two year and they don’t take long toreform themselves, if because of something (wind, etc.) the tree loses them.
Its scientifical name comes from the Greek words metro, that means half, e sideros, that means iron, and this is because of the strength of its dark red hood. In fact, in the past, the robustness and the resistance of this hood were exploited to the costruction of paddles, arms and digging rods. The cortex was also used for infuses. The nectar of the flower could be used as food and as treatment for sore-throat (I’ll make you know the reliability of this statement).
It’s got very strong roots that allows it to grow up even in rather hard conditions and to adapt at its best in its land, and also they were used to strengthen boats’ structures.
The tree isstill today anything but useless! On the contrary, it greatly contributes, for example, to prevent the erosion of the soil in the coastal areas, and planting it is useful to the land defense.
Pōhutukawa’s got a long life and a slow growth. Child-plants under two years old are particularly delicate and sensitive to cold, and for this reason it’s good to keep them inside or in warm places, maybe in a little box that has to be changed according to the growth of the sapling.
When flowers wither, that is in
spring autumn spring NEW-ZEALANDER AUTUMN, THAT’S OUR SPRING on the other side of the Equator, flowers begin to show off a multitude of little brown seeds.
Bedides humans, pōhutukawas are sadly loved also by <strong>possums</strong>, who eat mature leaves in winter and new ones in spring, risking eventually, to kill the tree. It has now become necessary to protect pōhutukawa from this and other “threats”, and for this reason Project Crimson Trust was founded. Their aim is to defend and conserve this beautiful trees.
The biggest pōhutukawa is named Te Waha or Rereokhu. It grows at Te Araroa (locality near Gisborne, look at the map above). It’s 19.8 meters tall, with branches that come over 38 meters length, and it’s supposed to be more than 300 years old. The oldest one, instead, is found at the top of Cape Reinga (at the extreme North of North Island), it’s said that it’s 800 years old and it has become sacred for Maori.
Now all that I have to do is to try to plant one in my garden. Then I’ll make it grow (hoping that it wouldn’t be as slow as a cactus) and I’ll show you some its unedited click.