Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Meet This Tree: The New Zealand Christmas Tree

 

The Metrosideros excelsa, commonly known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, makes a great accent in a garden, median, or as a street tree. (photos from Emina Darakjy)

 

Editor’s Note: This week Emina Darakjy, a very knowledgeable tree enthusiast we are lucky to call a Buzz contributor, introduces us to a holiday and climate appropriate tree! When we started this feature, we had just reported on the latest loss of a mature street tree. We hope these columns will inspire readers to plant new trees. Planting a tree is a simple step we can all take to combat climate change and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Please feel free to email at [email protected] us if you have any tree questions for Emina! 

 

Metrosideros excelsa – Commonly known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree
Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtle)
Origin: Coastal New Zealand and Australia

The Metrosideros excelsa is an evergreen tree with a rounded dense crown reaching a height of 35 feet with an equal spread. The tree can be grown as a multi-trunk or single trunk, does well in full sun but can tolerate light shade.

Down under in New Zealand this tree is called Pohutukawa, and blooms during their summer months which are November to January with a peak blooming cycle around Christmas time thus its common name.

 

The trunk becomes rough and fissured with a grayish-brown bark over time. It can be grown as a single or multi-trunk.

 

The trunk starts smooth, becoming rough and fissured with a grayish-brown bark.

The leaves are oval and are a beautiful glossy shade of gray/green. Flowers start as white buds before opening to a very showy crimson red with thin long stamens, resembling the flowers of a bottlebrush tree attracting birds and bees.

 

The leaves are glossy shade of gray/green.

 

Flowers start as white buds before opening to a very showy crimson red with thin long stamens resembling the flowers of a bottlebrush tree.

 

This tree is smog and drought tolerant, adapts to any soil conditions, tolerates the salty coastal mist making it a good candidate for coastal plantings.

The tree is considered pest free but can be susceptible to Phytophthora and Root Rot, and its aggressive roots can cause sidewalk damage.

 

Aerial roots hang down from the branches.

 

Another noticeable feature of this tree is its aerial roots, which hang down from its branches. If left alone, they can touch the ground and take root, forming extra trunks.

This is a beautiful tree, especially when in bloom, makes a great accent in a garden, median or as a street tree, and is safe to plant in areas where deer are present. It is also on Southern California Edison’s list of recommended trees to plant under powerlines.

 

Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and is its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation, and American Forests. She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.

 

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