The Pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) with its crimson flower has become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. This iconic Kiwi Christmas tree, which often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs, has become an important symbol for New Zealanders at home and abroad.
A gnarled, twisted Pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga,(Not the one pictured) the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated Pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.
Here is a close-up of the flower.