One of the great indigenous trees on the northern half of New Zealand’s North Island—it’s often planted elsewhere as well—is Metrosideros excelsa. The Māori* gave it the name pōhutukawa, which English speakers later adopted (though I heard some of them shorten it to what sounded to me more like putukawa). There’s also a tradition of referring to the pōhutukawa as the New Zealand Christmas tree because of the many clusters of red flowers it puts out in December. I arrived on February 3 and therefore missed that holiday display, but on the next day, in the town of Waiwera north of Auckland, I managed to find exactly one pōhutukawa tree that still had some flowers on it.** The sky was overcast and a fine drizzle was coming down, but I did what I could to take some pictures. It’s good that I did, because I didn’t find any more of these trees flowering during my 3+ weeks in New Zealand.
* A bar (technically called a macron) over a vowel indicates that the vowel is to be pronounced for a longer time than regular vowels. Many languages (but not English) make a distinction between long vowels and regular vowels, so that mā (if such existed) would be a different word from ma and have a different meaning.
Also like many languages, Māori has five vowels, whose pronunciations I’ll spell out as we might write them in English: a (ah), e (eh), i (ee), o (oh), u (oo). In effect, Māori has the same five vowels as Spanish.
** At least I’m hoping this is a pōhutukawa and not one of the rātā that are its later-flowering genus-mates.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman