Topic: Pitau Road Pōhutukawa, Mount Maunganui (est. c1560)
This enormous pōhutukawa tree dominates the Tree Reserve at 24 Pitau Road, Mount Maunganui. The tapu tree is thought to be one of the oldest in New Zealand at an estimated 400 to 500 years old.
Known to European as the species 'Metrosideros excelsa Mount Maunganui', this 16.5m pōhutukawa tree (metrosideros excelsa) is estimated to be between 400 to 500 years old. All cutting-grown descendants of this tree are known as this variety.
The tapu pōhutukawa tree is the last remaining pre-European pōhutukawa to be found on the Mount Maunganui ‘sand bar’ and has special significance to Tauranga iwi Ngāi Te Rangi. Tauranga kaumatua Kihi Ngatai (Ngāi Te Rangi) reported that their deceased were once hung from the branches until they decomposed. Their bones were then buried underneath it. This is supported by early European settlers who reported finding several skeletons of pre-European origin located at the tree's base in a kneeling ceremonial position.
In 1969 the pōhutukawa tree had a 10.6 metre girth at ground level and measured 16.4 metres high with a 26.2 metre spread.
During March 1988 Cyclone Bola caused much damage throughout the country. Several branches broke off the pōhutukawa tree. Local Māori would not allow council to trim back the tree, due to its historical usage and resulting tapu status.
In around 1993, the Specimen Tree Company of Auckland obtained propagation material from the pōhutukawa in order to ensure the continuation of the genetic material from this important historical tree.
In the mid-1990s, a major ‘split out’ failure in the pōhutukawa resulted in a propping system being installed to stabilise the remaining tree. The large wooden poles prevent the tree from collapsing. Many limbs lie along the ground, the canopy supported by the props.
In 2008 the pōhutukawa canopy measured 29 metres across and was 12 to 15 metres high.
Today the pōhutukawa sprawls across two sections and is listed as a 'conservation zone'.
Burstall, S. W. (1984). Great Trees of New Zealand.
Burstall, S. W. (1972). Historic and Notable Trees of New Zealand: Waikato Thames Valley - Coromandel and Bay of Plenty (New Zealand Forest Service: Forest Research Institute.
The New Zealand Tree Register (Historical Registration Number: 256).
Udy, Carly (2008, January 6). Favourite family tree that goes back centuries (Bay of Plenty Times).