35 / Pōhutukawa

Metrosideros excelsa

Many sections of this country’s coastline are fringed by pōhutukawa. This native evergreen is popularly known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, a result of its bright red blossom appearing near the end of December. Pōhutukawa can grow to extreme sizes; New Zealand’s – and the world’s – largest specimen, found at Te Araroa on the East Cape, is nearly 20m tall, has branches spreading over 36m, and is believed to be over 600 years old. The country’s most famous pōhutukawa grows from a promontory at Cape Reinga, at the northern tip of the North Island, and according to Māori tradition is the place from where spirits depart this world. The Māori name means ‘drenched with spray’, recognising the way the tree clings tenaciously to cliffs and endures the impact of wild ocean storms.

Share this icon

Back to all 64 icons