Native plants

Northern rata

Scientific name: Metrosideros robusta

Tree (over 15m) - native to the Wellington Region
Suits: dry, partial shade, sunny, shelter, coastal forest garden

About Northern rata

Once the co-dominant emergent tree of a distinctive vegetation type called rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum)/rata forest. today over most of the Wellington range it is scarce. Often starts its life as a epiphyte, this grand tree send down its aerial roots down a potentialy already declining host tree which is eventually strangled and forming a hollow trunk, composed of interlocking roots. On ground level, northern rata will grow with a thick, short trunk. Easily recognised from other Metrosideros species by its small, leathery, dark green leaves which are 25-50mm long by 15-25mm wide, and have a distinct notch at the tip. Masses of crimson red or orangeish flowers from November to January with plenty of nectar for birds, reptiles and insects. Young growth is generally pink and covered in fine rust-coloured hairs that are gradually shed as the foliage ages but tends to persist at the midrib and in the vicinity of the leaf base. The bark is usually brown or grey-brown and rather corky and provides an ideal stratum for the roots of epiphytic plants such as Astelia, collospernum and kiekie (Freycinetia banksii). Northern rātā usually occurs in hardwood and podocarp forests. It is often associated with such species as rewarewa, kohekohe, tawa, hinau, kanuka, kahikatea, pukatea and mahoe.

Northern rata is at riskt from hybridization with pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) which has now become established well south of its presumed natural southern limits. Ideally people should be discouraged from planting pohutukawa in places it is not natural to, especially when this borders habitats containing northern or southern rata (Metrosideros umbellata). Many plants sold at nurseries as northern rata are hybrids between it and pohutukawa. Hybridisation is common and makes identification difficult.

Provides for birds

  Nectar Fruit Seeds
Key . . .

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Read more about gardening for birds or see full nectar calendar.

Provides for lizards

  • Nectar

Read more about gardening for lizards.

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