I have visited the Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides. Both lie to the north west of Scotland in a truly windswept part of the world. I couldn’t understand why I felt so depressed during these visits but I subsequently discovered it was the absence of trees across both islands that had a negative effect on my mood. I love trees and the more that are around me, the better I feel.


The historic pear tree in Kerikeri is the sole survivor of 185 fruit trees and grape vines planted by Rev John Butler when the Kerikeri Mission Station was established in 1819. The beautiful old tree is the oldest surviving exotic tree in New Zealand, and is into its third century of life. It has survived the musket wars, the threat of fire and several major floods over the past two centuries. This year, it has been nominated for the first ever “Tree of the year”

It’s believed the tree originated from Samuel Marsden’s Paramatta Estate in Australia and was planted as part of the need to establish food crops and orchards for the mission at Kerikeri. Today, the pear tree is almost entirely hollow but still going strong. Pear trees are the longest-lived of all the fruit trees, and it’s not uncommon for elderly pear trees to hollow out and this doesn’t affect them in any way. The pear tree is of the Williams Bon Chrétien (Williams good Christian) variety which is the most popular European pear. It has been said that the fruit from this tree were so large that it only took four peaches to fill a bucket!!!! (maybe, maybe not) Missionaries often planted things that were in the Bible like olives and figs, irrespective of whether they were suited to the soil and climate. In the case of the pear appears to have been the perfect compromise. For the thousands of visitors to the Kerikeri Mission Station every year seeing the pear tree is an important part of their visit.


The Square Kauri on the Coromandel Peninsula rises to a height of 44m (144.3ft) with the crown of the foliage spreading 30.3m (99 ft). The magnificent tree is estimated to be an impressive 1,200 years old. Its unusual square-looking trunk spared it from being chopped down in the late 19th century when most of the large kauri trees in the area were used for building the various settlements springing up around the North Island at the time. The straightness and strength of kauri tree trunks were also prized for use as ship masts. Today, the Square Kauri has become quite a tourist attraction and like other trees mentioned in this blog, is treated with respect and highly valued by locals and visitors alike.


The Hukutaia Domain in the central North Island contains one of the finest collections of native flora, with 80 species of native trees, shrubs, ferns and grasses, plus several hundred other native species introduced from elsewhere. Many are rare or endangered.

In the domain is an ancient puriri tree, about 22m (72ft) around, over 23m (75ft) high and estimated to be over 2000 years old. The puriri tree is native to the North Island and is known for its large trunk and glossy leaves. Hollow burial trees such as this one were used by the Maori as the last resting place for the bones of important people. The Whakatohea tribe used this particular tree for the deposit of their tribal bones so it was highly tapu (forbidden) and any interference of the tree would surely result in death. A local found bones in the tree while sheltering from a storm in 1913. Since then, they have been removed and the tapu has been lifted.


This black pine or ‘Sacred Matai’ tree stands 27.8m (92ft) alongside Hinehopu’s track which links Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotoehu in the Rotorua district. Hinehopu’s Tree is also known as the wishing tree and according to the legend, a warring Maori tribe was making its way down the path where a Maori princess and her baby (Hinehopu) were also travelling.

The princess hid herself and the baby in the hollow base of the tree while the warriors passed by. The baby grew up to foster the first of the great tribes of that area, and all the lesser tribes came from it. Later she met her husband under the tree. When they married the tree became sacred to their union. A ceremony to gain permission to enter new territory is performed by travellers passing the matai to ensure protection from evil spirits and to ensure fine weather for the remainder of their journey.


The weeping pagoda tree is regarded as one of the most graceful of all trees. In around 1840, Thomas Mason, a keen gardener, planted a large number of gum trees as well as a variety of other trees on his Hutt Valley property, later known as ‘The Gums’. Since then, most of them have disappeared. However, one Weeping Pagoda Tree has survived to the present day. Standing at just 1.5m (4.5ft), its foliage gently cascades in a denseness that hides the trunk to present an unusual sight that is beautiful to behold. It is the only tree of its type in New Zealand and is even uncommon in its native China. The tree can be seen at 7 Avalon Crescent in the Hutt Valley, a suburb of Wellington.


The Queenstown Lakes District Council has recently installed information plaques to outline the history of some of the district’s distinctive trees. 19th century pioneers have left living legacies of exotic trees, many of which are officially recognised on the New Zealand Tree Register. The ”Trees of Justice” near the Queenstown courthouse are possibly the best-know and most photographed historic trees in the town. The sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) were understood to have been planted outside the courthouse around 1876 by Phillip Boult, clerk of the Lake County Council. He decided Queenstown should copy the American tradition of planting trees outside the courthouse to provide shade for those attending court. A cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) planted by Bendix Hallenstein at his Speargrass Flat estate in the 1870s is the tallest of its species anywhere in New Zealand, while a sequoia on Queenstown Hill is the largest exotic conifer in New Zealand. The tree, also known as a giant redwood or wellingtonia, is thought to have been planted in about 1870 and is 45.4m (148ft) high.

Ceidrik Heward

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