In which Miles enjoys the New Zealand Christmas tree, and gradually improving weather on Christmas day.
Metrosideros excelsa (pōhutukawa, New Zealand pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas tree) is a coastal evergreen tree in the myrtle family,Myrtaceae, that produces a brilliant display of red (or occasionally orange, yellow or white) flowers made up of a mass of stamens. The pōhutukawa is one of twelve Metrosideros species endemic to New Zealand. Renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive even perched on rocky, precarious cliffs, it has found an important place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty and is regarded as a chiefly tree (rākau rangatira) by Māori. The blossom of the tree is called kahika.
The pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, because of the bright red “bulbs”, and because it only blooms around this time of year.
During the month of December I visited a number of beaches fringed with pohutukawa trees. They’re in bloom everywhere now, and the colors seem to be getting brighter. The photo above was taken at Mahurangi Regional Park. I’ll be posting about this soon, although I’m a bit behind and have several other adventures to post first.
It rained hard most of Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day started without rain but cool and cloudy. It took a while, but started clearing up nicely in the afternoon, and the parks filled with people enjoying the weather.
This view of Auckland on Christmas Day is framed by pohutukawa trees, although you have to look closely to see the red flowers.
Everything is closed on Christmas Day in New Zealand, and the grocery stores are full of last-minute shoppers. Many kiwis take up to a month off this time of year, and many of those go camping – many more locals will be encountered at campgrounds this time of year, and really anywhere outdoors. I’m going to head down to the South Island soon, but before I go I need to visit central Auckland, which I am told empties considerably this time of year. The day after Christmas is Boxing Day (as in England and a number of other countries), a big shopping day comparable to Black Friday in the USA. So, today would not be the day to enjoy an empty Auckland. Maybe tomorrow.