Monday, 13 October 2014

Pilgrimage to a Tree - the largest known Northern Rata

In dense bush north of Wellington stands the truly awesome giant Karapoti Rata.

Forest and Bird trampers and the Karapoti Rata
Thought to be over 1000 years old, it is 39 metres high and has a girth or circumference of over 15m. To read about who measured it, see The New Zealand Tree Register. The register tells you the GPS location of the tree. But it's one thing to know the location, it's quite another to find the tree in the forest.

We were very lucky that a member of our tramping group had the ambition to not only find the tree but also to note the route so he could lead us there. He and his friends were very determined - it took them several long attempts before they were satisfied they could lead us there. Our seven hour trip involved quite a few scrambles - up and down creeks and slippery slopes, sometimes using ropes - but it was worth it.

So big, it took 15 people to hug the tree!

Looking up the tree
Northern rata (Metrosideros robusta) are extraordinary trees.
They start life as an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants growing on a host tree. The seed takes root on a branch of the host tree. It sends long roots down to the bottom of the host tree as well as growing up to the canopy. Over the years it sends down more and more roots that encircle the host tree. Eventually the host tree dies and the rata takes over completely.

A big thank you to John, Mike, Allan and Marianne.