Mantles of red and golden weather

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Pohutukawa flowers. Image: Su Leslie 2019

For many here in Aotearoa New Zealand — especially those of us living near the coast — the arrival of summer is heralded by the flowering of the Pohututkawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa).

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Pohutukawa flower buds. Image; Su Leslie 2019

A member of the myrtle family, pohutukawa grows easily along the country’s coastline, often spilling precariously over cliffs. Incredibly strong roots anchor its spreading, silver branches that twist and gnarl at impossible angles. It is long-lived, providing generations of beach-goers with shelter and shade where sand meets bush.

pohutukawa flower cluster wet

Image: Su Leslie 2020

And between November and February (but particularly in December and January) you will find pohutukawa trees all over the country covered in a profusion of (generally red) flowers.

Early European settlers “adopted” the pohutukawa as the New Zealand Christmas tree, using wreaths and branches to adorn homes and churches during the Christmas festivities. Today, pohutukawa-themed Christmas cards, gifts and tree ornaments are sold in shops around the country.

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… some of us make our own cards. Image/design: Su Leslie 2018

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Pohutukawa flowers — NZ’s “Christmas tree.” Image: Su Leslie, 2017

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Image: Su Leslie 2014

The pohutukawa is a common symbolic element or icon in much of my nation’s culture. One of our foremost playwrights, Bruce Mason, wrote a play called The Pohutukawa Tree, but it is from another of his works — The End of the Golden Weather — that I draw these words

“The red is of a fire dying at dusk. The green faded in drab. Pain and age are in these gnarled forms, in bare roots clutching at the earth, knotting on the cliff face, in tortured branches dark against the washed sky.”

— from The End of the Golden Weather, a play by Bruce Mason.

Each year, on Christmas Day, a scene from The End of the Golden Weather is performed on Takapuna Beach, near my home. Each year, several several hundred Aucklanders turn up to see this — free — performance. That too has become a part of what summer means in this tiny corner of the world.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Summer

Friday Flowers

 

 

47 thoughts on “Mantles of red and golden weather

    • I do think our colour tastes change a lot over time. I still wear a lot of red, but mostly crimson as scarlet tones really don’t suit me. When I was a child my mum insisted red was a terrible colour for me and wouldn’t allow me to have any red clothes. I still don’t understand quite what she was thinking!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So beautiful, Su – and the Christmas cards are gorgeous! We visited in December, over Christmas, so my memories are vivid of just how many Pohutukawa trees we saw – everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a wonderful Christmas day tradition! Do you happen to know if they’ve put a performance online once? I’d love to see it! πŸ˜€
    The flowers and your photos are just amazing, I’m so drawn to these tiny red petals (?) and I totally get that the European settlers adopted the tree as their Christmas tree. πŸ˜„

    Liked by 1 person

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