Pohutakawa…..”sprinkled by spray” (referring to the fact that they are usually found along the seashore).
The Pohutakawa has an important place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty and is regarded as a chiefly tree (rākau rangatira) by Māori. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood………..A gnarled, twisted Pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many. This small, venerated Pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.
The tree flowers from November to January with a peak in mid to late December (which is our Summer here in the Southern hemsiphere). They have brilliant crimson flowers covering the tree, hence the nickname New Zealand Christmas Tree. When the flowers fall it’s almost as if a scarlet carpet has been laid beneath the tree…Cicada’s (everything you wanted to know …and more about them here…..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada) seem to love sitting in the Pahutakawa’s..especially when it’s sunny the noise from them is just amazing…it’s this mass of clicking which sounds like a rustling…the warmer it is the louder they get.
The picture above is of just some of the Pahut’s along a road that went from Tawa (where we lived, just out of Wellington) and Porirua (which is where we did our shopping). Sometimes when the weather was really warm you had to turn the radio up in the truck as the sound of the Cicada’s would drown out the sound of the radio.
The leaves of the pohutukawa are thick and tough, a shiny dark green on top and silvery white on their softer undersides.
Problem here is there are Possums (hey everywhere has to have it’s bot on the landscape)…these are not the cute big eye-ed Opossums but gnarly bad tempered hissy things and they are a threat to these beautiful trees (as they are to most trees)…they strip the leaves off them.