It’s that time of the year when pōhutukawa trees everywhere will be bursting into bloom, decorating the coast with their festive red flowers. They are as iconic to our Kiwi summer as jandals and hokey pokey icecream.
But are you aware that Blockhouse Bay is home to some very rare yellow pōhutukawa? These will be visible very soon, and can be seen on Taylor St near the intersection with Blockhouse Bay Rd.
The yellow pōhutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa 'Aurea') is a rare colour form and descends from a pair discovered in 1840 on Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty, by a Mr Potts.
Blockhouse Bay has some very distinctive street scapes of red pōhutukawa including Gilfillan, Kinross, Heaphy and down Blockhouse Bay Rd, and these have their own story too.
According to Blockhouse Bay Historical Society’s Audrey Thomas and Yvonne Dabb, the trees were planted around 1946 by pupils from the standard classes of Blockhouse Bay Primary during Arbour Day celebrations. Council workers dug the holes and each student got to plant a tree. The students had to write a composition about the event and the Auckland Savings Bank gave a prize for the best one.
It is understood that the council asked for a contribution of five shillings from local home owners.
According to Wikipedia, at least 39 cultivars of pōhutukawa have been released. Duncan & Davies nurseries were a leading force in the mid-20th century, while Graeme Platt has been responsible for 16 different cultivars so far, including a rare white-flowering tree.
One cultivar was even sourced from Blockhouse Bay by Graeme Platt in the mid-1980s called (unsurprisingly) M. excelsa ‘Blockhouse Bay’. Could Mr Platt have perhaps sourced his cultivar from those planted by the children?
The yellow pōhutukawa were believed to have been specially cultivated and ‘sprinkled’ amongst those planted by the students.