The unique vegetation of New Zealand has about two thousand plants species. More than 70 percent of these species are endemic. Endemic, by the way, means that they are found only in New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. New Zealand also has a great amount of ferns, which is very unusual for a country with climate such as New Zealand’s. Siver fern (Cyathea dealbata) is one of the national symbols of New Zealand. Take for example the emblem of Qualmark (New Zealand tourism’s official quality agency).
New Zealand also has a record number of mosses – 600 different types (!), more than fifty percent of which are endemic. Of the 187 different types of herbs found in New Zealand, 157 types are endemic.
Most of the people are familiar with the flower Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis). But not many know that of 70 known types of this flower 30 types are New Zealand’s endemic. But let’s go further:
More than 20% of New Zealand’s territory is covered with frontier forests reaching the astonishing area of Six Million Hectares! Hiking through New Zealand’s forests is not an easy task: gigantic ferns are intertwined with Kauri and Rimu trees, with Kanuka trees (Kunzea ericoides or white tea-tree) joining the party. The only option is to walk on the marked pathways which are maintained by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC).
One of the most remarkable trees that you meet while hiking in New Zealand’s forests are Kauri trees, otherwise known by their Latin name Agathis. In this article I will tell you a little bit about those unusual “creatures”. These coniferous trees, the true lords of New Zealand’s forest, appeared on face of the Earth way back in Jurassic period (which means about 150 million years ago). Huge Kauri forests safely existed in New Zealand until the arrival of man, to say more exactly – European man (Maori call them Pakeha). European settlers began cutting down trees in large quantities for the resin and for pasture areas.
Unlike Pakeha, Maori treated very tenderly everything that came from nature. They also were using Kauri for their needs, such as crafting their famous canoes. Maori were also collecting resin for lighting their houses. But Maori didn’t cut Kauri trees in large quantities. Before cutting each tree they performed a sacred ceremony, in which they asked the kauri spirit to give permission to use the tree. If you think about how Maori could cut down these huge trees with the primitive tools they had, you come to understand their unprecedented skills.
In Maori mythology Kauri play a very important role – they separate the father-sky (Rangi) from mother-earth (Papa). By the twentieth century Pakeha (European settlers) realized the importance of the ancient kauri trees and created strict laws protecting them, and nowadays only the fallen kauri tree trunks can be processed.
The tallest and largest kauri tree in New Zealand is located at Waipoua Kauri Forest located on the North Island. Its name is Tane Mahuta, it is the god of forest and birds, son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Its trunk height is 17.7 meters, while the total height being 51.5 meters. Trunk girth is 13.8 meters and the trunk volume is 244.5 cubic meters! The age of this tree is difficult to estimate, but there are hypotheses that its age is about 2000 years!
The second largest kauri tree in New Zealand is also located at Waipoua Kauri Forest. It is the Father of the Forest – Te Matua Ngahere, it has the biggest Kauri girth of 16.41 meters and the second largest trunk volume of 208.1 cubic meters.
Being there and seeing those majestic trees myself I can tell you that those trees truly live up to their names. The sacredness of those “creatures” is in the whole atmosphere around them. I felt a humble little human being around these god-like giants.
Lord Of The Forest Kauri Tree