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Location

  • San Diego Zoo

Bloom time (approximate):

  • Summer

Gardens

Plants: Species

New Zealand Christmas Tree or Pohutukawa Metrosideros excelsus

FAMILY: MYRTACEAE (Myrtle Family)

It's known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because it produces an abundance of bright red flowers in December, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, that is! Early New Zealand settlers, lacking holly, used its flowers to decorate their homes during the holidays.

Up here on the northern half of the globe, however, Metrosideros excelsus flowers in early summer. So it makes more sense for us to use the tree's Maori name, pohutukawa. That means "drenched with spray," and refers to the seashore conditions where the wild plants grow. The Maoris used the tree's strong red timber for tools and boat hulls, its honey for sore throats, and its bark for dysentery, toothaches, and poultices. Southern Californians use pohutukawas for shade and beauty in their yards and gardens.