Recently I have seen the golden Kowhai tree at our back door with its beautiful spring candles and the friendly Tuis with their distinctive song, who come to collect the nectar and sing for us. From the time of the spring flowering of the Kowhai this is what all Northlanders are looking forward to - The Pōhutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas tree - and high summer.
The tree grows up to twenty metres in height, with a dome-like spreading form. Its natural range is the coastal regions of the North Island of New Zealand, north of a line stretching from New Plymouth (39° S) to Gisborne (38° S). It also grows on the shores of lakes in the Rotorua area.
A giant Pōhutukawa at Te Araroa on the East Coast is reputed to be the largest in the country, with a height of 20 metres and a spread of 38 metres. The tree is renowned as a cliff-dweller, able to maintain a hold in precarious, near-vertical situations. Some specimens have matted, fibrous aerial roots.
The Pōhutukawa flowers from November to January with a peak in mid to late December (the southern hemisphere summer), with brilliant crimson flowers covering the tree, hence the nickname New Zealand Christmas Tree.
The most settled summer weather in Northland is late January through to the middle of February. When high summer comes the light is bright and sharp and the days hot, vibrant and dazzling. If there is a warm, fresh, fair wind blowing, the best thing of all that I like to be doing in a Northland summer, is to be sailing.