Topic: Tapu Tītoki (Otumoetai Pa)

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Said to be the oldest tree in Tauranga, the Tapu Tītoki at Otumoetai Pa is a tree of historical significance.

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The tītoki (Alectryon  excelsus) is a common native New Zealand tree known by early European as the New Zealand Oak. It has shiny leaves and a twisting trunk with smooth dark bark. The tree produces small purple flowers in spring, with the seeds taking up to a year to mature. In early summer the hairy woody caspules split when the black and red fruit ripens and the shiny black seeds are revealed. Māori traditionally extracted oil from the seeds for use on their hair and body.

The Tapu Tītoki in Tauranga is situated at the rear of the Otumoetai Pa Historical Reserve on Levers Road in Matua. The land was previously owned by the Matheson family and the Tītoki is situated to the east of the remnants of the Matheson homestead. Alister Hugh Matheson (1925-2011) was a well respected Tauranga Historian.

The age of the Tītoki is approximately 300 years old. In pre-European times the tree was significant due to its large size and the fact it could be seen used as a place marker for those out at sea. Along with the Tītoki, Maori used Mauao, Karewa Island and where Thompson’s Track crosses the Kaimai Ranges to find their position. Because of its importance, the tree was declared tapu.

On 23 September 1845, a meeting took place beneath the Tītoki which signified the end of ten years of warfare between Ngāi Te Rangi (Tauranga) and Te Arawa (Rotorua & Maketu). This meeting was witnessed by Archdeacon Alfred Nesbit Brown (1803-1884), Reverend Thomas Chapman (1792-1876) and Reverend Christopher Pearson Davies (1812-1861). A large stone from Mauao was placed on the spot over which the chiefs made their peace by each placing a foot on it, shaking hands, rubbing noses and smoking the pipe of peace. The ‘peace stone’ remained as a token of peace between the tribes until it was later split. It is now held at the Tauranga Museum and the Tapu Tītoki is protected and maintained by the Tauranga City Council.

 

Sources:

Great Trees of New Zealand by S.W. Burstall & E.V. Sale (c1984).

Notable Trees Register.

Otumoetai Historic Reserve.

The New Zealand Tree Register.

The Peace Stone by Alister Matheson.

This page was archived at perma cc February 2017 https://perma.cc/wn9u-ezhu

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