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Last week I found a tree in someone’s front garden that had me stopping the car once again & getting out for a closer look.  It was a New Zealand Christmas tree (Metrosideros excelsus). It is also known as the Pohutukawa tree.

Amazing that such a colourful bird can blend in so well

The tree was festooned with flowers with hundreds more yet to bloom.  The Lorikeets were all over it, so this is a great tree if you like birds.  Each flower is quite large at around 3 cms & like Red Flowering Gums, they grow in clusters at around 12 cms wide. The flowers are deep rich red.  The tree flowers a number of times a year with the main flowering season from November to February.

The New Zealand Christmas tree is an evergreen tree that can reach a height of between 7 – 10 metres in ideal conditions with a dense canopy of up to 7-metres wide. The leaves are a dark grayish-green with white ‘hair’s’ underneath & are 3-5 cms long, just enough to hide a Lorikeet or 10.

It handles pruning & is disease, pest, wind & salt tolerant. It is also drought tolerant once established & grows well in coastal areas.

It would make an excellent street tree & a whole street with these trees in flower would look wonderful. All that red would be quite striking when the trees were in flower.  The only downfall is that they can develop significant roots when mature, so it is definitely a case of plant it in the right place.

Some people are purists when it comes to wanting only Australian natives.  My opinion is that if a tree provides food for nectar-eating birds, then it is beneficial to the environment. The New Zealand Christmas tree certainly provides food for birds which they love. It also provides a dense canopy offering safety & shelter, which is important, especially for smaller birds.

I certainly think that the New Zealand Christmas tree would be a good choice in Marrickville LGA.  It would be good to have some bold colours here & there.

You can grow the New Zealand Christmas tree from seeds, which are available from most nurseries. I think it’s the tree world equivalent of a super model on par with the Red Flowering Gum.

close-up of the flowers of the New Zealand Christmas tree



Each branch of the Tree Waratah is festooned with these stunning flowers

There is a street tree in Stanmore that made me stop my car to go & have a look. While I was there one other person also came to have a look.  Like me they took photos.

Its correct name is Alloxylon flammeum, but most people call it a Tree Waratah or Red Silky Oak. It comes from the Proteaceae family.  Others in this family are Banksias & Grevilleas. It is native to the rainforest areas on Australia’s east coast, though it can be grown almost Australia-wide.

The Tree Waratah is a stunning tree to look at. It has thin erect branches & is slow growing which would make it attractive to many people.  It has long dark green leaves that are also attractive.  When it flowers in spring through summer it is covered in bright red flowers with each flower looking like a bunch in its own right.  The flowers are bird-attracting which adds to its value as I believe as many trees as possible, especially street trees, should be providing food for urban wildlife.

In perfect conditions the Tree Waratah it will grow to between 8-10 metres with a canopy between 2-4 metres.  It is not a large tree, making it suitable as a street tree.  It can also be pruned to be a large shrub & would cope with pruning by power companies, as it would easily form a v-shape.  If planted in the right place & because of its erect growth habit it could be allowed to grow into its natural shape & not have to be pruned.  Also, it is a much superior alternative to the Ornamental Pear that is currently in vogue as a street tree.

I have never seen these trees for sale in a nursery, but you could ask your nursery to order it in from a specialist nursery for you.   It grows easily from cuttings. If you like Australian birds, this is a tree to seriously consider.  It can be an object of extreme beauty in your garden or if we were lucky enough, Council could do us a favour & plant them as street trees. Wouldn’t that be fantastic.

close-up shows why they are referred to as a Waratah



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