Pohutukawa / NZ Christmas Tree
The name Metrosideros comes from the combining of Greek terms for heart (metra) and iron (sideros), alluding to the hard heartwood of the tree. Excelsa is Latin for noble.
Māori used the boiled inner bark to cure diarrhoea, and the nectar for sore throats.
12m x 8m. Multi-trunked, with low, arching boughs sometimes touching the ground. Adventitious roots hang down in some plants.
Great for a spectacular splash of summer colour, which the Maori saw as hailing the beginning of summer. Attractive to nectar-loving birds such as tui and bell-bird.
Extremely tough in coastal conditions, but frost-tender when young.
Karo (Pittosporum crassifolium) – a large shrub. Flowers are small, dull-dark red and 5-petalled. Seeds are black and sticky inside dull pods.
Northern Rātā (Metrosideros robusta) – leaves with a distinct notch at the tip, not downy on the underside. Usually starting as an epiphyte.
Southern Rātā (Metrosideros umbellata) – leaves pointed, not downy on the underside. Flowers with a bold yellow centre.