Our beautiful kahikatea tree is looking splendid in its autumn colours. Standing in our front garden, it was once part of a large grove, some of which still remain in the adjacent property.
The kahikatea is New Zealand’s tallest forest tree, growing to heights of over 60 metres. It once dominated the forests that covered much of New Zealand’s swampy lowland areas. Unlike our solitary kahikatea, it is more common to find them close to other kahikatea, intertwining its buttressed roots with its neighbours for support in the unstable swampy ground.
In autumn, numerous forest birds chatter noisily in its canopy, feeding on its abundant red berries. These berries, called koroī, were also a valued food source for Māori, who skillfully climbed up the smooth branchless trunks to harvest them.
It was Captain Cook who named this giant, “white pine”, when he and his companions first encountered it along the banks of the Waihou River, in the North Island. They had great confidence in its suitability as timber. However, it was not long before it was discovered that while undoubtedly tall and straight, the softness of the kahikatea’s wood and the fact it was a susceptible to damage by house borer, made it unsuitable for naval or building applications.
But its uses didn’t end there – the fact this timber has no odour, meant it was in great demand for cheese crates, butter boxes and tallow casks in the days before fibre-board containers. Consequently there was then a sizable export trade in the timber to Australia and Europe. In fact Kahikatea or white pine is still used today for casks.
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit the region – quieter, yet still beautiful sunny skies and calm waters. Come and check it out for yourself. BOOK NOW
Reference: Project Kaikatea and Te Ara NZ.