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Go on, enjoy a break with a classic New Zealand native, the mighty Northern Rata (Metrosideros robusta), one of New Zealand’s tallest flowering trees. The Rata tree grows on an angle as one Maori tradition has it, because the first Rata sapling was trampled by a moa.

The Northern Rata is a hardy cousin of the Pohutukawa, and is a large specimen forest tree. It grows slowly to four metres at 10 years, and can reach 40 metres at maturity. It usually begins as an epiphyte in the forest, later sending roots to the ground while clinging to its host tree for support. As the Rata develops independent strength it sends roots sideways creating a lattice work which fuses, thickens, and eventually encases the host tree. To fully achieve this takes many years and the host has usually died by this stage, most likely of old age, rather than popularly believed strangulation. 

M. robusta flowers in midsummer boasting orange-red to deep crimson, and occasionally pinkish, blooms from November-January. They are rich in nectar which nectivorous birds such as tui, bellbird and kaka, as well as insects and bees greedily seek out. The woody fruit ripens in May freeing wispy seeds to the breeze. Northern Rata’s dark green foliage is comprised of smallish leather-like leaves and forms a loose parasol-like canopy.

Widespread from the Three Kings Islands over much of the country, Northern Rata has sustained damage from possums which can kill a mature tree within three years, the felling of forests, hybridisation with Pohutukawa, firewood sourcing, and natural stressors, which have significantly diminished its prevalence. 

Maori used the vines to bind fences, construction framing and platforms, and in earlier years, settlers used it for fence and stock posts, stockyards, ship-building, wheelwright work, cabinetmaking, machine beds, bearings, bridges, wharves, construction work, railway carriages and other types of conveyances. Many applications were found for Rata in Maori and early medicine.

$90 each                  T.B.A  
                               (available in 2020)

The term, Metrosideros, can be translated as, iron-hearted, and comes from the Greek metra (middle) and sideros (iron) alluding to the hardness of Rata timber. Robusta translates as sturdy and tough. The wood is favoured by wood-turners for its handsome twisted red grain despite being tricky to turn once dried. It’s also tricky to properly season without it cracking, a propensity much bemoaned by wood-turners. 

  • The timber ranges from dull reddish-browns, to vibrant reds, to pinks, is tightly grained, heavy, strong, and durable
  • Northern Rata is distinguished from other Rata species by the mesh of many veins on the light green underside of its leaves
  • Rata was coveted firewood which would burn green, but it needed to be chopped while it was green  
  • The tree produces delectable nectar which bees convert into a distinctive honey
  • Rata grow easily
  • They need a lot of light – they reach through the canopy for it
  • Seeds are released from April through June and the best trees come from seeds harvested from the locality in which planting is intended
  • Collect fresh seed from that season’s flowers
  • Plants will fail to grow if conditions are too dry – they like moisture
  • Spread the seed on trays so it can be seen, and protect them from the sun 
  • September is the best time to propagate. Germination takes up to three weeks. Once the seedlings have reached 50cms they can be transplanted into a sunny position in the ground, or in loose-weave baskets as epiphytes nestled into trees
  • Rata nectar was employed to soothe sore throats
  • Ringworm was treated with a lotion made from Rata bark, as were wounds, venereal disease, and a range of general complaints 
  • The sap was used to treat open injuries, coughs, and eye complaints, and when it was blown from short lengths of vine onto wounds, it enabled healing
  • The inner bark, according to Reed & Brett’s Auckland Almanac (1874), was recommended for diarrhoea, dysentery, stemming bleeding, and healing sores
  • A toothache could be tackled by chewing the young leaves

Other Rata species currently in stock
at takana native trees include:

Southern Rata

(Metrosideros umbellata)

Southern Rata is a hardy spreading forest specimen which grows steadily to three metres at ten years, and to a maximum of 15 metres. It bursts into a display of showy red flowers from spring into mid-summer but not every year. M. umbellata prefers moist, shady conditions and is found throughout both islands. This tree produces some of the toughest timber in New Zealand, but the tree itself is subject to ravage by possums where they are uncontrolled.

$130 each          $600 each

Bartlett's Rata

(Metrosideros bartlettii)

Bartlett's Rata (Rātā Moehau) is a rare specimen forest tree which reaches a maximum of 30m. It produces white flowers (the only rata species to do so) and has distinctive pale-grey, papery bark. Approximately 30 adult trees survive in the wild, most of these in the Far North. 
takana native trees takes the loss of our more rare native tree species seriously, and dedicates significant resources to increasing their presence and helping preserve New Zealand’s natural heritage.

 $125 each
* All prices are exclusive of GST

102 Omaha Flats Road, Matakana

Copyright © 2019 Takana Native Tree Nursery, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Takana Native Tree Nursery
51 Sylvan Avenue
Auckland, Auckland -
New Zealand

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