WWW: A Christmas Tree, Down Under
This one isn’t necessarily that weird, but after we arrived in New Zealand, every time we drove past one of these Steve would ask “is that a banyan tree?” No, it was not. It is a tree called the New Zealand christmas tree, the New Zealand pōhutukawa (Māori), or Metrosideros excelsa (science).
It is called a christmas tree because it blooms in early summer in the Southern Hemisphere, right around Christmastime. According to Māori legend, a young Māori warrior attempted to avenge his father’s death and sought heaven. When he got there he fell to earth and the crimson flowers represent his blood.
A specific tree at the northern tip of New Zealand’s north island, is considered the ‘place of leaping’ as the spirits of the dead use this point to begin their journey to Hawaiki, the mythological Māori homeland.
The tree has aerial roots (like a banyan tree), that descend from the top of the tree to the ground to take root. Pōhutukawa are salt spray tolerant making them well-suited for a costal environment. The red flowers are “perfect” meaning they possess both the male and female sex characteristics.
As this post is appropriately timed to the holiday, I will leave you with a link to this very sweet Christmas song written by George Hrab.
Image by Ed323 at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Source: Pohutukawa trees, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 22-Nov-2013