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Rimu

Rimu’ or ‘limu’ means seaweed in Polynesian languages, and this tree is named for its fine leaves, which look like drooping seaweed.

Rimu
Dacrydium cupressinum
Can grow as high as
50m
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More about this tree

  • In native forest, the rimu towers over other trees in lowland and montane areas, with its fine, weeping leaves and red bark that falls off in large flakes.
  • 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 of Tunaroa, a giant eel slain by Māui
  • 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 to drive off evil spirits.
  • European settlers used rimu extensively for building and furniture, particularly south of the Waikato, where kauri didn’t grow. It is now a protected species, and can’t be logged on public land, though there is some selective felling on sustainably managed private forests.
  • The rimu tree only fruits every few years, and produces a bumper crop, or mast crop, in years with the right weather conditions. Fruit forms on the very 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, the kākāpō, is closely tied to the years that rimu trees have a high fruit yield. It is said that the unripe rimu fruit is an aphrodisiac for male and female kākapo, and the ripe fruit is a complete meal for growing chicks. 
  • Captain Cook used the bark and leaves of rimu and mānuka to make a ‘spruce beer’ for his crew to prevent scurvy (and lift spirits). It was so well received that when he returned again, years later, the recipe was re-used.
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