In native forest, therimutowers over other trees in lowland and montane areas, with its fine, weeping leaves and red bark that falls off in largeflakes.
Known as ‘red pine’ by European settlers, it was a good description for the wood, gum and sap of the tree, which all have a red colour.
In Māori mythology the red is attributed as the blood ofTunaroa, a giant eel slain byMāui.
Wood was used by Māori for weapons, tools and waka. When the wood was burned it had a distinctive aroma and little smoke, so was thought todrive off evil spirits.
European settlers usedrimuextensively for building and furniture, particularly south of the Waikato, where kauri didn’t grow. It is now a protectedspecies, and can’t be logged on public land, though there is some selective felling on sustainably managed private forests.
Therimutree only fruits every few years, and produces a bumper crop, or mast crop, in years with the right weather conditions. Fruit forms on thevery end of the branches, making it dangerous to harvest, but it was used as a food source by Māori.
The breeding success of the endangered native parrot, thekākāpō, is closely tied to the years thatrimutrees have a high fruit yield. It is said that theunriperimufruit is an aphrodisiac for male and femalekākapo, and the ripe fruit is a complete meal for growing chicks.
Captain Cook used the bark and leaves ofrimuandmānukato make a ‘spruce beer’ for his crew to prevent scurvy (and lift spirits). It was so wellreceived that when he returned again, years later, the recipe was re-used.