Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sign of the Times

Metrosideros excelsa
One of the great things about farm life is getting an array of seasonal signals, the pohutukawa tree annual blossoming is one of them, putting on a deep red display right on Christmas.
This year's arrival was actually a week late, maybe the rain we got through the three months right up to end Dec put the brakes on its clock, but certainly a great show of colour.
Its known in some quarters as the NZ Christmas Tree for this flowering characteristic, and its said to be found from the top of the North Island down to a line level with Mt Taranaki through to East Cape.
Here at 40th parallel Whangaehu we're actually below this line but this tree's doing fine in our 900mm annual rainfall flood silt plain, and has withstood three major floods in the last 10 years. 
I'm trying to plant one a year to make an avenue along my driveway, you can just make out junior in front.
Pohutukawa is a Maori word derived from hutukawa, a red feather headress.
The Latin name, metrosideros, refers to the iron-like properties of the hard timber, used in early times for  weapons, paddles, digging sticks and spades.
A tea made from the bark or leaves was used as a cure for dysentery and diarrhoea, and the nectar from the flowers for food and treatment for sore throat.