I took this photo Friday morning in
One of the main features of New Zealand around Christmastime—apart from the fact it’s summer—is the Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), often called the New Zealand Christmas Tree because its red bottle brush-like blooms appear around Christmas (give or take a few weeks).
Apparently, early English settlers cut the branches to place in their homes for holiday displays, only to discover that they instantly dropped the red bristle-like fibres from the blooms. Perhaps the story is a myth, because you’d think they’d have noticed the red carpet on the ground under Pohutukawa trees this time of year.
Pohutukawas are primarily a coastal tree in the
Australian possums were imported into
Possums are now trapped and used in many ways. Their fur is used in a variety of products, such as being mixed with merino wool for woven clothes that are lightweight, warm and extremely soft. The skins are used to make things like golf gloves that are supposedly the best in the world. Ironically, these terrible pests that we can’t get rid of are endangered in some parts of
Not so very long ago, Pohutukawa were threatened. An effort called Project Crimson was created to encourage planting of Pohutukawa and the related Rata. The effort was extremely successful, aided in part by official protection given to Pohutukawa trees over a certain size, along with stepped-up possum eradication efforts.
The trees are truly magnificent, often forming a massive trunk, maybe two metres in diameter, and reaching heights of about 20 metres. When there are huge old Pohutukawas along a sea shore, the site is nothing sort of awe inspiring.
Pohutukawas are one of the main benefits of having Christmas in