Friday 16 December 2011

New Zealand Christmas tree

Auckland Airport, North Island, New Zealand

New Zealand Christmas tree in bloom
These pictures were the first that I took of a NZ Christmas tree, it was the day after we arrived, in a very high wind. The tree was just coming into bloom.
Unfortunately, it was also the last time, and as we are now in the south the chances that I will be able to show you some decent pictures by Christmas are rather slim and I regret this very badly because I wanted it to be our e-card. Apologies!  

Here this tree is known by its Maori name, Pohutukava. There is a certain pride in using the Maori names for a lot of wildlife and other things too. The Department of Conservation gives a very strong example.

Pohutukawa is considered one of most magnificent flowering NZ trees, it grows along the coastlines of North Island where we did see some near Tutukaka but they weren’t yet in bloom. However, it is also widely grown in urban spaces, indeed as it has a lovely round shape and when in bloom is spectacularly covered with red flowers.
Its scientific name is Metrosideros excelsa, it belongs to the same family as eucalyptus trees, the Myrtaceae. Indeed the flowers open up just like the widely planted bottlebrush shrubs Callistemon and I was able to capture that.

As you can see it has nothing to do with the Christmas trees that we take for granted, they are all conifers.

There is also an Australian Christmas tree Nuytsia floribunda, it has yellow flowers. This tree is rather strange though, it grows on other trees, a hemiparasite.

Australian Christmas tree flowers
Again, this tree was just coming into bloom in the Perth area in early November soon after we arrived. Perhaps I will be able to see some still in Sydney in January? 

As for originality, one can’t beat the South Africans who use the very tall spent inflorescence of the agave plants, a tropical American native plant that is now well established in that part of the world, and other placers as well, for instance Portugal.  It has ideally spaced branches to hang things, rather stark and effective. 

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