A stellar summer for pohutukawa
27/01/2015

It’s a popular image of the New Zealand summer, when pohutukawa and rata are bursting with blossom. Yet by 1990 much of the coastal stands of pohutukawa were becoming wiped out, in some parts of the country up to 90% of it had disappeared. The Project Crimson Trust, in partnership with the Department of Conservation was established to fight for their survival.  

Over the past 25 years Project Crimson has undertaken extensive progress re-establishing pohutukawa and rata nationwide by planting trees, coordinating and supporting a wide range of maintenance activities, scientific research, possum control programmes and public education. Whilst pohutukawa and northern and southern rata are no longer threatened species their protection and continued renewal is still vital. Work remains to be done to restore the Bartlett's Rata species, with only 25 adult trees known to be in survival.

(Photo courtesy of Peter and Jacky Hair)

This year has been heralded as one of the best summers for pohutukawa we have seen for some time.  Project Crimson's Forest Health Consultant, Gordon Hosking explains why.

"Well the short answer is we are not entirely sure!" says Gordon.  "Pohutukawa trees have the choice of forming either flower buds (producing seed) or vegetative buds (adding foliage to the crown which is the engine room of tree growth) and this determination probably occurs in the season before the buds actually appear."

"It might be that a particularly good growing season one year with lots of vegetative buds, will encourage a high level of flowering the next. Last summer was quite moist throughout and would have been great for growth. Of course most trees have a mixture of flowering and vegetative buds so you get areas of intense flowering but not all over."

"This summer I have seen more whole tree flowering than any that I can remember. It will be interesting to see what happens next year as trees have to balance resource allocation between growth and seed production."

In terms of the impacts of this, due to the abundance of flowers, pollinators (insects) will thrive which will have flow on effects to the other ecosystems that they are part of. Bee keepers can expect a good year and so can gardeners due to the abundance of well fed pollinators in their gardens.