Bloomin’ lovely

It’s Christmas and the trees are all decorated, I mean the New Zealand native Christmas trees aka Pohutakawas, and they are particularly magnificent this year.

The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad.

Pohutukawa and its cousin rata also hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. 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 New Zealanders. For Maori 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 Hawaiki. 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.

Colours vary as well with the flowers ranging from pink to red to crimson to a bronze red. There are also yellow pohutakawa, which I like to think of as my Christmas tree decked out in golden decorations.

I love the long twisting branches and the way the tree clings improbably to cliffs. Kids love playing amongst its branches and we all love to camp or picnic beneath their arching limbs providing much needed shade from the summer sun.

In times past, I was known for my elaborately decorated Christmas trees, always colour themed, and never the same colours repeated.

Now I am just happy to see nature’s best decorated trees in all their glory.

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