Botanical name: Metrosideros excelsa

Maori name: Pohutukawa

Habitat: Considered a coastal tree because it grows around the coast of the North Island.


Appearance: The Pōhutukawa is a coastal ever green in the myrtle family that produces a brilliant display of red flowers in summer. The red-plumed flowers appear in December inspiring the name “New Zealand Christmas Tree.” A pohutukawa tree can live up to 1000 years and can grow to up to 20 metres high.

Natural usefulness: Pohutukawa flowers have a sweet nectar that attracts birds like tui, bellbird and kaka as well as geckos and bats.



Maori Myths and Legends: Tawhaki was a young Maori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers of the Pohutukawa tree are said to represent his blood.  For many Maori, Cape Reinga is considered one of the most significant and spiritual sites in New Zealand. Legend tells that the solitary Pohutukawa that grows on one of the cliffs there is one that all Maori spirits seek out after they have died. After they climb down the roots of this 800 year old tree into the sea, they return to their homeland of Hawaiiki-A-Nui.



  • What is the nickname for the Pohutukawa?
  • What is one animal that eats the nectar Pohutukawa produce?


More information can be found here:

We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Jyot and Zoe to this research.