The pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) is a beautiful, flowering tree, commonly called the New Zealand Christmas tree in this country. What is a pohutukawa? This spreading evergreen produces vast amounts of bright red, bottle-brush flowers in midsummer. Read on for more pohutukawa information.
What is a Pohutukawa?
According to pohutukawa information, these striking trees grow to 30 to 35 feet (9-11 m.) tall and wide in mild climates. Native to New Zealand, they thrive in this country in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.
These are handsome, showy trees that grow fast – up to 24 inches (61 cm.) a year. The New Zealand Christmas tree/pohutukawa is an attractive hedge or specimen tree for mild climates, with its glossy, leathery leaves, crimson blossoms, and interesting aerial roots used to build in extra support as they drop from the branches to the ground and take root.
The trees are drought resistant and extremely tolerant, accepting urban conditions including smog as well as the salt spray so common in coastal areas.
If you are wondering where these trees get their common names, pohutukawa is a M’ori word, the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand. That is the common name used in the tree’s native realm.
What about “Christmas tree?”. While American trees blaze with crimson flowers in late spring and early summer, that season falls in December south of the equator. In addition, the red blossoms are held at the tips of the branches like Christmas decorations.
Growing New Zealand Christmas Trees
If you live in a very warm winter area, you can consider growing New Zealand Christmas trees. They are widely grown as ornamentals along the California coast, from the San Francisco Bay area down to Los Angeles. They are wonderful trees for the coast since it is difficult to find flowering trees that can take the breezes and salt spray. New Zealand Christmas trees can.
What about New Zealand Christmas tree care? Plant these trees in a full sun or partial sun location. They need well-draining soil, neutral to alkaline. Wet soil can result in root rot, but in good growing conditions the trees are largely free of pests and diseases. According to some experts, they can live 1,000 years.