|Metrosideros excelsa subsp. var.||Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree|
The Pohutukawa (M. excelsa), is an evergreen tree native to mid to northern coastal regions of the North Island of New Zealand. It is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree due to the fact that its peak flowering season is mid to late December.
The Pohutukawa can grow up to and above 15m in height, with a spread of around 30m or greater. During the summer months, the tree is covered in many cases to its entirety in red flowers. With some trees, there are large matted aerial roots.
|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Metrosideros tomentosa, A. Rich. Christmas-tree of New Zeal., because of its season of bloom, intro. into S. Calif, many years ago and now offered by nurserymen: much- branched tree to 70 ft., the short trunk becoming 5 ft. in diam.: lvs. very variable, 1—4 in. long, lanceolate to broad-oblong, acute or obtuse, very thick, usually tomentose beneath: fls. large, dark crimson, in many-fld. terminal cymes, the pedicels and calyces tomentose; stamens numerous, to 1½in. long.— Cheeseman reports it as a "noble and picturesque tree," abundant in the N. Island of New Zeal.
The Pohutukawa will easily grow in places where most other coastal trees would wither and die. It is commonly seen growing in nearly vertical cliff faces, where fresh water and nutrients are hard to come by, but the salt water and winds lash it continually.
In places more suited to survival, it will be common that the vast majority of a coast forest in its native area is made up of Pohutukawas. In such positions, the tree can reach heights of 20 metres or more, and have a spread of up to and over 30 metres.
Younger plants are quite susceptible to frost, so if planting in an area with frosts of 10C or more, it is recommended that one buys a tree around a metre high. This sized tree will probably have it's adult foliage, which is a darker green and more leathery and thus can withstand harsher conditions. Even so, it would be advisable to always keep protected from frosts until it is well established.
In 1940 on Mōtiti Island in the Bay of Plenty there was discovered a cultivar known as 'Aurea' that has yellow flowers.
The seed ripens around late summer to early autumn, depending on the climate, especially in coastal areas. You can spread the seed on the soil in coastal positions, or if further inland, sprinkle the seed on top of some seed raising mix in a box. Germination can take 21-35 days.
The aerial roots can also be layered or cuttings can be taken. These, along with seedlings, should be kept indoors or in a greenhouse until their adult foliage has emerged. Then they should be hardened off and planted outside.
Pests and diseases
The brush-tailed possum strips the adult pohutukawa trees of their leaves and eat their new growth. They will also eat the entire seedling. The treatment for this is sheet steel wrapped around the trunk to make it so possums can't climb the tree due to the fact they can't get a grip. Chicken wire netting can prevent seedlings from being eaten.
- M. excelsa. 'Aurea'
- M. excelsa. 'Butterscotch'
- M. excelsa. 'Fire Mountain'
- M. excelsa. 'Gold Finger'
- M. excelsa. 'Lighthouse'
- M. excelsa. 'Maori Princess'
- M. excelsa. 'Moon Maiden'
- M. excelsa. 'Parnell'
- M. excelsa. 'Pink Lady'
- M. excelsa. 'Royal Flame'
- M. excelsa. 'Scarlet Pimpernel'
- M. excelsa. 'Springfire'
- M. excelsa. 'Springtime'
- M. excelsa. 'Varigata'
- M. excelsa. 'Vibrance'
- ↑ Yate's 'Garden Problem Solver', HarperCollins, New Zealand, 2001
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963