For many New Zealanders, scarlet pohutukawa flowers herald the start of the Christmas festive season.
But at Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant this year, some of the ‘Kiwi Christmas trees’ have put on an extra special show―with a mass of shimmering golden stamens, instead of the commonly seen red flowers.
Over the years, we have planted around 200 to 300 red pohutukawa at the plant and along the Coastal Walkway. Around a dozen trees make up the yellow cultivar and they make a striking contrast against their scarlet neighbours. This year, for some reason, the yellow varieties have produced many more flowers than ever before.
From left: Environmental technician Liam Templeton, Māngere plant operator Phil Brown and botanist Dr Mike Wilcox.
Local botanist Dr Mike Wilcox says the Māngere trees make up one of the biggest groves in Auckland.
“I’ve seen similar yellow pohutukawa in Cornwall Park and the odd tree growing in and around Auckland streets, but I believe the only other major grove in the Auckland region is found in Shakespear Regional Park, Whangaparaoa Peninsular.
"I don’t know why they’re flowering so well this year. Trees do have good and bad years. Sometimes it’s something to do with the climate the previous year, other times it’s just a trait of the particular variety.”
Pohutukawa are native to New Zealand and are part of the myrtle family. Yellow pohutukawa or ‘Metrosideros excelsa Aurea’ trees are found in several commercial and garden nurseries.
All the trees are believed to be descended from a pair discovered in 1940 on Mōtiti Island in the Bay of Plenty.
Plant operator Phil Brown has worked at Māngere for nine years and says he and his colleagues are excited to see the golden blooms: “Not many of the staff realise we have this taonga (treasure). I think we’re blessed to have the yellow trees at our plant and to have so many of them.”
The yellow blooms were so plentiful, that they made up some of the floral arrangements at the recent staff Christmas lunch.
There are now plans to gather seed in the autumn, so that more yellow pohutukawa can be grown and planted at other Watercare sites. That way all our staff and visitors, can enjoy their golden beauty.