Not the New Zealand Christmas Tree

Metrosideros excelsa is also known as Pōhutukawa or the New Zealand Chrismas tree, its scarlet flowers appear from November to January, peaking in mid to late December providing a fine Christmas spectacle.  Unfortunately we do not have a Metrosideros excelsa in the garden but we do have this Metrosideros umbellata, which is as close as we are going to get at such short notice.  Metrosideros means core of iron referring to its very tough wood, umbellata means flowers which appear in umbels.  This is yet another New Zealand native and known as the Southern Rātā. It is much more suited to the North Devon environment, coming from the cooler, wetter regions of South Island.  This little specimen is yet to flower and I agree isn’t much to look at yet, but I am confident that it will grow into a beauty, especially if it reaches the 15m a mature plant in the wild would reach.  We may have to move it towards the back of the border then, but as it is very slow growing I will probably be able to leave that job to the next gardener.  It is also apparently slow to flower so they may well also be the first to get the benefit of the prolific blooms.   The petals themselves are small and it is the brilliant scarlet stamen, up to 2cm long, that attract pollinators to the flowers.  At the base of the flower is a cup like structure called the hypanthium where pollinators, whether it be insects, birds and sometimes in the wild bats and lizards sit to enjoy the nectar.  I imagine it to be like a cafe bar for nectar lovers, how very accommodating.


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