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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Metrosideros excelsa - New Zealand Christmas Tree

I have seen so many beautiful examples of this tree, I just wish more of them were in Santa Cruz. We do have some very nice examples around, thankfully. Like so many trees from the Southern Hemisphere the flowers are very showy and mostly all male parts. This small tree likes coastal conditions, sandy soils and needs little water once established. Should be used more often, makes a great street tree.

Why is it called the NZ Christmas tree? Well, it blooms in summer, which in the southern hemisphere is Nov-Feb. Can you imaging sitting on the beach at christmas, oops we do that here as well.

Sort of a slow growing evergreen tree and will not get very large around here, maybe 25 feet and tends to be on the narrow side, but also forms a wide spreading habit if it is grown as a multi-stemmed specimen. The specimen in SF arboretum is magnificent and significantly larger than anything here or even in Marina (which has lots of very nice ones).



Leaves are evergreen, thick and tough, opposite, simple, 2 - 3" long, and 1" wide, oval to elliptical in shape, dark green upper surface, lower is white, covered with long white hairs, margins tend to be revolute (rolled over).



As I mentioned, the flowers are the show in summer and the red stamens are beautiful. Looking like a bottlebrush flower, but shorter and fewer in a cluster. The flowers in this picture are from a variegated selection.



The aerial roots are really something. Long masses of roots hanging from the branches of older trees. 




Misidentification: Maybe one of the bottlebrushes (Callistemon). Metrosideros has very short clusters of flowers and a darker green leaf that is wider than bottlebrush leaves.

Locations:
Santa Cruz, Mission Plaza has one that is narrow. Its close to the Church.

7th Ave from Eaton to the beach, One of the best plantings around. Makes a great street tree.

Seascape Resort ... Suite 418 showing nice aerial roots.

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