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Northern rātā

One of New Zealand’s tallest flowering trees which gets a height advantage by starting life atop another canopy tree.

Northern rātā
Metrosideros robusta
Can grow as high as
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More about this tree

  • Northern rātā is found throughout the North Island and as far south as Hokitika, and is abundant in coastal and lower montane forests. 
  • It is one of New Zealand’s most famous epiphytes; a plant that often begins its life atop another host plant, and later sends roots to the ground down the trunk of the host tree in search of pockets of soil and moisture. When they eventually root into the ground the rātā becomes independent of the host. 
  • These trees live for thousands of years. The roots fuse together over time and form a trunk inside which the original host tree decays.
  • Rātā that begin their life in the ground tend to be shorter than those who start as epiphytes.
  • Its bark was used by early Māori to treat a number of skin conditions.
  • Rātā flowers are a source of nectar for honey bees, pollen for native bees, and a meal for bats and lizards too.
  • Kākā, tūī and tītapu also feed on the nectar, and many birds nest in the hollow trunks.
  • Rātā is from the same family as pōhutukawa, but its leaves are smaller with a small notch in the top. The flowers are also smaller, but a deeper red colour.