13 January 2009

Pohutukawa: New Zealand's Christmas tree


The Wellington countryside is currently ablaze with red flowers from trees endemic to the country. These are the pohutukawas, trees that spread the holiday cheer by decorating its canopy and carpeting its immediate vicinity with red. The trees bloom starting December and lasts for a couple of months.

Comparing this with my hometown of Baguio City in the Philippines, the sunflowers start blooming on November and follow the journey of the sun from dusk til dawn til February.

The pohutukawas were a source of medicine for dysentery by the Maori of times past. It also gave them guidance in predicting the upcoming harvest season's success. Two ancient trees at the south side of Lake Rotoiti provided an insight into the immdediate future: if the blossoms started from the lower branches and ended at the uppermost reaches of the pohutukawa, there would be warm and pleasant season ahead with an abundant harvest. If the blossoms started appearing at the top, it did not bode well for the harvest season.


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