It's endemic to the upper half of the North Island in warm, drier areas close to the sea.Pōhutukawacan live for hundreds of yearsin these conditions.
The most famouspōhutukawais at Cape Reinga, where Kupe said his descendants would travel in spirit form back toHawaiki.Spirits of the dead are said to travelTeAra Wairua, the spirits’ pathway up the country, until they arrive at Cape Reinga and get toTeRerengaWairua “the leaping place of the spirits” where they leap off the headland and down the roots on their journey back tothe ancestral land.
This is why the phrase “to slide down thepōhutukawaroot” means someone has passed away and is heading to the spirit world.
Inrongōa, both Māori andPākehāused a decoction from the inner bark as a treatment fordysentry, and the nectar from flowerswas used in the treatment of sore throats.
The iconicpōhutukawafeatures in many artworks and brands, and is a national symbol of summertime.
Timber is a dense red wood, which has been used by Māori for paddles, digging sticks and weapons, and also by boat builders forits natural bends and immunity to sea worms.
Like its close relative therātā,pōhutukawahas aerial roots which start on branches and make their way to the ground before takingroot.
It's under threat from the introduced possum, which eats the leaves: causing serious damage, or even death, to the tree.
Pōhutukawacan be considered a pest plant outside of its endemic range as it displaces other natives and its vigorous root systemscan destroy underground services and lift pavements.