Since we're taking a bit of a break from Fun Monday this week to give all the little elves a
chance to finish their holiday preparations, I thought I'd share a couple of photos of a really unusual tree that I saw on a horticultural tour of New Zealand a couple of years ago. The Pohutukawa, or New Zealand Christmas Tree, is ablaze with crimson flowers from October through December, especially along the Tasman Sea coastal areas. "Pohutukawa" is Maori for "drenched with mist" or "splashed with sea spray." because it thrives by the sea. The plant can either be shrubby as seen along the water's edge or cultivated as trees in more formal garden plantings. Trees can reach 15 feet height when fully mature.
English settlers in New Zealand used the pohutukawa flowers in place of holly for their Christmas decorations, hence the re-naming. The flower heads are frothy red pom poms that pop out of equally beautiful creamy white buds. The leaves of the tree are medium green and quite waxy to touch.
I took this very bad photo of the pohutukawa flower and actual clipping. Look at the pressed flower to see exactly how the bloom is made up of hundreds of tiny red "stems" from each bud. I probably wasn't supposed to bring this back in the U.S., but I was using the flower as a bookmark and forgot about having it. And the agricultural customs beagle at the airport didn't ask to check my book when I was flying out of New Zealand. I do remember that we saw this tree the same morning that we got up before dawn and hiked through a dark primordial green forest without making a sound in order to see two baby penguins come out on the Tasman Sea beach. What a thrill even though we could barely see them.
Here's hoping your holidays are as festive as the Kiwi Christmas Tree or as quiet and precious as the two baby penguins on the beach at dawn. All the best to you and yours this holiday season. Faye