Common name and scientific name: Northern Rata, Metrosideros robusta
Origin and natural range: Native to New Zealand, the Northern Rata is one of the most iconic and well-known tree species in the country. It is found throughout the North Island and the upper half of the South Island, and it is a prominent feature of the native forest.
Altitude range: The Northern Rata can grow from sea level to an altitude of 1000m. It is also known to grow in the alpine regions of New Zealand, where it can be found growing in the subalpine shrubland and alpine grassland.
Physical characteristics: The Northern Rata is a large, evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 meters tall. It has a thick trunk and a dense, round canopy. The leaves are glossy and dark green, and the tree produces large clusters of vibrant red flowers in the summer. The flowers are a favorite of the Tui bird which pollinates the flowers and also feeds on the nectar.
Growth rate and lifespan: The Northern Rata has a moderate growth rate and can live up to 200 years. This species is particularly long-lived, and it is not uncommon to find Northern Rata trees that are over 500 years old.
Growing conditions: The Northern Rata prefers well-drained soils, and can tolerate a variety of conditions such as full sun, partial shade, and dry or wet soils. It is frost hardy and can tolerate coastal exposure. It can be found in the forest, scrubland, and on the edge of the forest. This tree is also known to grow in association with other native tree species such as Kahikatea, Totara, and Kahikatoa. The Northern Rata is also known for its ability to grow as an epiphyte, which means it can grow on other plants and trees. This is particularly interesting and unique as it’s not a common trait among trees.
Planting instructions: The tree should be planted in a well-draining soil, in a location that receives full sun to partial shade. It is important to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Take into account that it has a shallow or deep root system, which means it can grow to a certain depth and spread out to a certain width. It’s recommended to plant a tree that is at least 1-2 years old and at least 1 meter in height. This ensures that the tree has a strong root system and is better able to establish itself in its new location.