Pohutukawa, pronounced Po’-hu-tu-ka’-wa :-
Po rhymes with Jo
Hu as in Who
Tu as in 2
Ka as in Car
Wa rhymes with Ka / Car
OK, it’s a tree, often called our “Christmas Tree” because of its deep red flowers over the December-January period. It’s primarily a coastal tree, growing right on the edge of the beach or precariously out of impossibly small ledges or cracks in shear cliff faces. It’s quite a large tree, growing to maximum of about 20 metres (70ft) tall but very wide spreading, perhaps up to 50m (160ft) canopy diameter. Most trees though are probably about half that size. Its one of those trees that hates straight lines. Why grow a straight branch when you can grow one that twists, curls, bends, corkscrews, and generally wriggles about instead? And you can even throw in an elbow or a U-turn just for fun too!
A specimen tree planted by the council on the grassed coastal strip.
A suburban neighbourhood tree in full flower. Pohutukawa are quite popular trees, and many people will go to considerable lengths to accommodate them on their property. For example, holes in fences and walls to let the tree grow through are quite common.Pohutukawa trees do have more than scenic value. Those big twisty branches were quite useful in days gone by. The wood was much favoured by early European boat-builders as it was very resistant to seaworms, and all those natural bends were ideal for boat construction. The ribs of the largest wooden sailing ship built in NZ, the 409-tonne Stirlingshire were made from pohutukawa. The flowers are big hairy puff-ball sort of things, and you end up with carpets of the “hair” under the tree. Damn nuisance most of the time.
My wife got a bit floral arty and made a 'pohutukawa flower and red rose' arrangement for the Christmas dining table.
It’s a limited crop and rather expensive, but in this part of the world pohutukawa is generally regarded as the premier honey. Very light and creamy but with a distinctive taste. Mmmm, yum, there were 2 jars in my Christmas stocking, and a new honey-spoon.