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METROSIDEROS excelsa

Image of Metrosideros excelsa

Kahuroa, Wikimedia Commons Contributor

Family

Myrtaceae

Botanical Name

METROSIDEROS excelsa

Plant Common Name

New Zealand Christmas Tree, Pohutukawa

General Description

With brilliant crimson blossoms in late spring and early summer, the pohutukawa, or New Zealand Christmas tree, is among the world's most beautiful flowering trees. Native to New Zealand, it blooms there in December, which is summertime in the southern hemisphere. This broadleaf evergreen tree develops an upright, rounded canopy. Its root system is extensive and problematic because the surface roots crack and lift sidewalks and patios if growing space is limited.

Young plants resemble shrubs but develop into trees with age. They are covered with glossy green, oval leaves with recurved edges. As plants age, the leathery leaves become less shiny and turn dark green with gray, felty undersides. The crushed leaves and branches smell of pine. Anytime from late spring to early summer, branch tips bear dome-like clusters of crimson flowers that lack petals but are teeming with long, whisker-like stamens. Emerging buds are white and felty. Nectar-loving insects and birds relish the blossoms and leathery seed capsules develop after pollinated.

Grow New Zealand Christmas tree in a sunny spot with loam that is slightly acidic. This plant tolerates heat, drought and salt spray, but cannot withstand subfreezing temperatures. Lower branches can be pruned away to encourage a tree-like habit. This is a short-lived tree that will typically survive no more than 30 years. It makes a fine tree for mild coastal landscapes. Plant as a specimen tree in a spacious lawn, seaside garden, or large planter. It has many surface roots that can damage pavement, so it does not make a good street tree for space-limited tree lawns.

There are several appealing cultivars to choose from; 'Aurea' produces golden yellow flowers and 'Gala' has dark red flowers with gold accents on the stamens and green leaves spotted with yellow.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 16, 17, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    30'-65' / 9.1m - 19.8m (35)

  • Width

    20'-40' / 6.1m - 12.2m (20)

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    New Zealand

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Crimson

  • Fruit Color

    Brown, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Dark Green, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green, Gray

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green, Gray

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds, Hummingbirds

  • Self-Sowing

    No