Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Nova Scotia’s answer to New Zealand’s pōhutukawa trees

with 35 comments

New 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 Harbour, Nova Scotia, I found some evergreen trees precariously perched on a cliff along the Bay of Fundy. I took pictures of them from several angles, including the one above looking mostly straight up from the shore beneath the largest of the trees. Notice the curious curve of the small tree at the bottom of the photograph. Below, from a horizontal point of view, you get a closer look at the huge tuber-like base hanging off the cliff.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2018 at 6:44 PM

35 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. These are amazing! I enjoy seeing the world through your eyes & camera lens!

    Reed Andariese

    July 27, 2018 at 7:28 PM

    • It was quite a sight, no doubt about it. I was as excited as you when I found a resonance with New Zealand in a place so far from there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2018 at 7:44 PM

  2. That’s impressive. Do you know what the tree is?


    July 28, 2018 at 4:49 AM

  3. Not quite the same as the sort of evolutionary convergence exemplified by flying fish … an American Robin … a butterfly … a flying squirrel (less so, I suppose) … and a pterodactyl … but an interesting case of convergence of growth habit nonetheless. Where plants are concerned, in marginal environments especially, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I have often marveled at similar behavior displayed by a number of different sorts of trees growing along the interstates. Particularly in areas of vertical rock cut.

    Pairodox Farm

    July 28, 2018 at 5:16 AM

    • What an interesting concept: a convergence of growth habits, as opposed to the more conventional categories, like the ability to fly. What I don’t know is how typical hanging off a cliff is for this species of conifer; I didn’t see other instances, but that might have been due to limited exposure on my part because I was in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for only a week.

      What you say about vertical rock cuts is also interesting. I’ll have a post next month about ferns taking advantage of seeping water on the face of a cliff created by the cutting through of an Austin highway.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 28, 2018 at 5:27 AM

  4. Cool shots! Talk about cliffhangers, really hanging by their toenails, if trees had those.
    Do any other viewers see a gray lizard, reenacting scenes from “The Perils of Pauline”??

    Robert Parker

    July 28, 2018 at 11:22 AM

    • I’m with you as far as the gray in “a gray lizard, reenacting scenes from “’The Perils of Pauline.’” As students so often ask: can I get partial credit?

      While I’m aware of Pauline as a damsel in distress, I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen one of the movies in that cliffhanger series. And who’d have imagined getting to a time when we could speak of something so well known in the history of the cinema as being from a century ago? Tempus is fugiting, all right.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 28, 2018 at 12:12 PM

      • The George Eastman museum in Rochester has a theater, and showed some of Edison’s earliest efforts, from the 1890’s, and a horrible one from 1903 showing a circus elephant being electrocuted. I’ve never seen any of the “Pauline” movies, but Ithaca actually had several studios, that filmed at Taughannock Falls and Cayuga Lake, etc., but they all moved before the talkies came along. I think the Pauline ones were filmed around NYC and used the Palisades for the cliffs.

        Robert Parker

        July 28, 2018 at 3:15 PM

        • I didn’t know there was an early filmmaking industry in Ithaca. I did know a lot of early movies were made in Long Island City and New Jersey; Edison had his lab in New Jersey, after all.

          This afternoon on the Smithsonian Channel we watched the episode of Aerial America devoted to New York State. The few minutes about Rochester mentioned George Eastman and his founding of Eastman Kodak. It suddenly occurred to me that probably most people below a certain age, maybe 20, have no idea what the name Kodak is associated with.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 28, 2018 at 8:52 PM

  5. Impressive indeed!


    July 28, 2018 at 1:44 PM

  6. That is incredible. A lesson in tenacity.


    July 29, 2018 at 4:39 AM

  7. It’s interesting, too, that Nova Scotia means New Scotland: a nice parallel with New Zealand. The first photo feels disorienting; I’ve an almost irresistable impulse to rotate it 90 degrees to the right. Maybe that bottom tree felt the same way, and kept trying to make the turn as it grew.

    It’s interesting that the weightiness of the tuber in the second photo is able to balance the delicacy of the flowers and the heft of the rocks. Each of the three elements seems in balance with the others — a neat trick of composition on your part.


    July 29, 2018 at 8:15 AM

    • Ahem. That would be ” irresistible.”


      July 29, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    • I’d thought about highlighting the linguistic parallel between Nova Scotia and New Zealand; now you’ve done it for me.

      I, too, rotated the picture to the right to see what it looked like. It’s okay for the main trees but seemed unnatural for the littler tree with the arc in it. I sometimes enjoy taking a picture at an angle that doesn’t line up with the traditional horizontal or vertical. An unconventional angle sometimes lets the subjects fill the frame in a pleasing way, even while causing problems in displaying the picture precisely because things don’t align with our expectations. Oh well, might as well live it up pictorially from time to time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 9:12 AM

      • Speaking of unconventional angles, you might enjoy Georgia O’Keeffe’s comment about this 1963 painting she called “A Winter Road.” It’s included in her book Some Memories of Drawings:

        “I live on a hilltop in a village of about two hundred Spanish-American people. From my eastern window the road out into the world seems to wind away far up and down. Nearby it seems to swoop under the house, and then curves to the left instead and goes past me…”

        “One day, playing with a camera, I tried to photograph the road and to get it all in I had to turn the camera at a very odd angle. My drawing — or painting — call it what you will — comes from that photograph.”


        July 29, 2018 at 9:25 PM

        • Thanks for that minimalist painting and the quotation about it. “A very odd angle” sounds just fine to me.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 29, 2018 at 9:38 PM

  8. They look like bonsai trees! I looked up the type of conifers that could be growing on Bay of Fundi and the Red Spruce (Picea rubens) and Balsam Fir are mentioned on the article I read. I was interested since they look like bonsais on the rocks.


    July 29, 2018 at 11:09 AM

  9. There is a Mexican fan palm that came up under an interchange of the Santa Monica Freeway. When it reached the underside of the interchange, it turned to the side, and followed the concrete ceiling to the edge, where it resumed upright growth. From above, it looks like just another palm next to the freeway. From below, it is weirdly disfigured. The trunk starts out quite vertical, turns horizontal, than turns back to vertical again. It did what it needed to do to get out from under the freeway.


    July 29, 2018 at 12:44 PM

    • Plants can be pretty resourceful when it comes to patterns of growth. Can you link to a picture of the unusually bent palm along the Santa Monica Freeway?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2018 at 12:57 PM

  10. Oh yes they are just like pohutukawa .. cliff clingers! 🙂


    August 1, 2018 at 1:31 AM

  11. […] you remember the pōhutukawa-like trees clinging to the cliff at Halls Harbour? At Blomidon I similarly saw a lone tree at the edge of a cliff that looked like […]

  12. I just love seeing massive roots that seem to barely anchor trees into impossible situations. Last month I came upon a man kneeling, as if he were praying, in the rough beach at a park near here. His phone was in his hands and when I looked I saw that he was photographing the same trees I’d been impressed by, big old Douglas firs whose root systems were being slowly undercut by the waves. We see it a lot here. I liked the idea that he seemed to be worshipping the trees. I talked to him and his friend – he was a geologist from Seattle, up for the day to explore the park. 🙂
    In this case, it’s not even roots, it’s the tree trunk that has adapted – amazing. Great photos!


    September 4, 2021 at 1:16 PM

    • It’s not strange for us photographers to imagine ourselves as supplicants before our subjects, especially such massive ones as these trees and the Douglas firs in your post. Nor does it seem unusual that the geologist and you felt drawn to the very same trees; how many others have been or will be, we won’t know.

      As I mentioned in this post, New Zealand’s great pōhutukawa trees had primed me to react to these evergreens in Nova Scotia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 4, 2021 at 1:35 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: