Monday, September 18, 2006

Pohutukawa springing


Today I walked to work and it was absolutely, positively Spring. I'm not sure if it snuck up on me while I was obsessing about my operation or if the lovely sunny weekend we've just had tipped the balance.

For a few weeks the early signs have been out - first fleshy pink magnolias, then all the leaves gone from the kowhai trees replaced with yellow flowers and the Botanical Gardens becoming ever more tulipy. But suddenly today lots of unimpressive trees I don't usually notice were covered in blossom, the blackbirds were flirting and one very early pohutukawa was out.


When Europeans first settled in Wellington there were no pohutukawa trees here, they were only found further north in New Zealand. Then between 1930 and the 1970s the Wellington City Council planted 30,000 [quoted from memory from Bob Brockie's excellent book City Nature]. Wellingtonians also planted them in their gardens and many self seeded. They are now very common here.

The interesting question is why had a tree that grows so readily in Wellington not spread here naturally? Some scientists believe pohutukawa did used to grow in Wellington. It was only during the last iceage [or mini-iceage I forget which] that it got too cold for them. If we had waited long enough they would have spread back south of their own accord. The problem with proving this theory is that pohutukawa pollen looks so similar to northern rata pollen that the identification of pohutukawa pollen by some experts is questioned by other experts.

I like the idea that the spread of pohutukawa south was inevitable and only assisted by generations of Wellingtonians.


JK said...

Happy Spring to you.

It's turning Fall where we live. It was a nice warm-ish day today.

Oh.. the trees... they are where I live too. If you read the Wikipedia article about them you'll see where they are the 3rd most popular street tree. I live close to there. :-)

RUTH said...

Happy Autumn to JK and everyone else north of the equator.