Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: One more picture of pōhutukawa trees

with 28 comments

Pohutukawa Tree on Seaside Bluff 8432

From Little Manly Beach early on the morning of February 27, my last day in New Zealand, here are a few pōhutukawa trees, Metrosideros excelsa, sprawling off a layered bluff and out over the flat-rocked shore.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2015 at 4:55 AM

28 Responses

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  1. One immediately wonders how long that tree, and others, have been and can continue to hold on to the rock…or the rock hold strong despite the action of the roots.

    Steve Gingold

    July 23, 2015 at 5:09 AM

    • I’ve read about the pōhutukawa’s penchant for growing on cliffs, but I don’t know if one of these trees ever falls off while still alive due to erosion of the cliff that supported it.

      I just did a search, and at


      I found an article about a New Zealand cliff eroding and the work being done to shore it up and protect two pōhutukawas that have been left at the edge. The location is one peninsula south of the one that has Little Manly Beach on it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2015 at 5:26 AM

      • Not exactly the same as a Malibu Beach house sliding into the sea, but a similar predicament.

        Steve Gingold

        July 23, 2015 at 6:09 PM

  2. This photo, with the pohutukawa, is a quintessential NZ scene. It made me wonder how many of the new flag designs featured the pohutukawa….. 44, it seems. https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/the-nz-flag-your-chance-to-decide/gallery/?keywords=pohutukawa&scroll=false


    July 23, 2015 at 5:10 AM

    • I was expecting to see a stylized tree but found instead stylized blossoms. That makes sense, because it would be hard to capture the essence of such a huge and much-branched tree on the limited space of a flag.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2015 at 5:31 AM

  3. Wow~life on the edge, eh? Fantastic photo.


    July 23, 2015 at 7:31 AM

  4. A picture of tenacity! Cool!


    July 23, 2015 at 8:45 AM

  5. I am always amazed to see how these trees can grow in the most amazing spaces. Pohutukawas are a protected species as they are such an iconic tree. Our native Christmas trees as they always bloom at Christmas time.

    Raewyn's Photos

    July 23, 2015 at 2:26 PM

    • Because I arrived on February 3rd, I unfortunately missed the great pōhutukawa Christmas display. Still, I found plenty of interesting trunks and branches and roots like the ones in today’s photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 23, 2015 at 3:07 PM

  6. wow


    July 23, 2015 at 9:51 PM

  7. This simple, almost austere scene has such a Zen-like feel. The tree reminds me of bonsai, and the terraced rock fits it perfectly. What a perfect spot to spend an hour or two (or more) just taking in the world.


    July 24, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    • When I was planning the trip I found just a few lines about the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in my Rough Guide to New Zealand. Nothing there prepared me for how nice the area was and how photogenic I would find Little Manly Beach, which had the added virtue of being just a few blocks from the house where we stayed. Weather and other circumstances almost kept me from taking any pictures there, something that didn’t come to pass until the last 24 hours of the trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2015 at 8:54 PM

  8. This is such a beautiful photograph. It puts me in mind, somehow, of incredibly detailed old master paintings.

    Susan Scheid

    July 25, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    • Hi, Susan. You popped into my mind a while ago, and now that I’ve come back to my computer, here you are. I appreciate your likening this photograph to an old master painting. If you ever decide to visit New Zealand, I can tell you how to get to this spot.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2015 at 9:33 PM

  9. Other commenters have already mentioned a few things that also went through my mind when I viewed this picture. It does look like a beautiful oil painting. It also reminds me of bonsai and the Japanese gardens I’ve seen. Sometimes I see similar trees growing out of the side of cliffs or clinging precariously to eroded river banks. I’ll often pause and marvel at the extensive root systems which are usually hidden by soil. I find it difficult to take photographs of them though that show their magnificence. I checked the link. What a shame you missed the pōhutukawa flowering. It’s an impressive display and certainly suits the Christmas season. Thank you for sharing so many interesting features of New Zealand.


    July 25, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    • You’re a lot closer to New Zealand than I am, Jane, so maybe you’ll get a chance to go over there one December and see the flowering pōhutukawa for yourself.

      I don’t try to make a photograph look like a painting (there was an early movement in photography called Pictorialism that did), but sometimes one comes out looking somewhat like a painting. I can see why you and some other people felt that here.

      When I think about bonsai I always conceive something small, which is not at all what comes to mind when I think about the mighty pōhutukawa.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2015 at 10:16 AM

  10. This certainly is an amazing tree and you have captured it so well. I couldn’t quite work out if I was seeing it the right way round!


    July 27, 2015 at 6:22 AM

    • Parts of it do seem upside down, don’t they? The pōhutukawa is a mighty tree indeed, and one of the highlights of my New Zealand trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2015 at 6:34 AM

      • Had a Kiwi colleague and he thought we should have moved there. It seems so varied and beautiful but a long way from my daughters in the UK. Here in our Sierra will do. There are lots of gnarled and twisted trees here too.


        July 27, 2015 at 6:52 AM

        • You’re right about how far away New Zealand is: apparently it was the last major land area to have been settled by humans, only about a thousand years ago. I can understand why you’d want to stay closer to your daughters. The gnarled and twisted trees you mentioned sound like inviting subjects for nature photographers. I hope someday I’ll make it to Andalucía.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM

  11. […] Zealand’s massive pōhutukawa trees are famous for managing to cling to and hang out over cliffs where you’d think gravity wouldn’t let them do that. On June 6th in Hall’s […]

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