Pohutukawa – the New Zealand Christmas tree

Rotoroa Pohutukawa

pohutukawa on beach Rotoroa+

Every year the pohutukawa shines out along our coastline right on time to celebrate Christmas. The pohutukawa at Maimai Bay, Rotoroa Island, was thick with blossom. The ancient tree clung tenaciously to the soil, its weary limbs resting on the sand below.

Maori legend has it that a young warrior, Tawhaki, tried to find heaven with the hope of avenging the death of his father. He fell back to earth. The pohutukawa flowers represent his blood.

An especially significant pohutukawa tree grows at the tip of the North Island where Maori believe the spirits of the dead depart from the land.

My childhood memories of pohutukawa centre on playing on the North Shore’s Thornes Bay beach in the 1950s and reading Avis Acre’s stories of Hutu and Kawa, the pohutukawa fairies. This image from one of the Hutu and Kawa books was downloaded from the internet.

An illustration from a Hutu and Kawa book.

An illustration from a Hutu and Kawa book.

More recently, I have enjoyed Rod Slater’s sculpture in Auckland where the Southern and North Western Motorways converge at Nelson Street. The sculpture has 105 fibre glass wands as stamens, each five metres long. This image was also downloaded from the internet.


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6 thoughts on “Pohutukawa – the New Zealand Christmas tree

  1. Sarah says:

    So Christmassy! I’m not sure how many cold, wet Decembers it is going to take me to get used to a cold, wet Christmas!

  2. Iggy says:

    I recall the Hutu and Kawa books. I think that a family friend from Hamilton was involved in the illustrations.

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