Pohutukawa and rata are known as New Zealand's native Christmas tree because of the bright red blooms which decorate the trees during the Christmas season. They trigger memories of long summer days spent with friends and family in, on, around and under these magnificent trees.
Pohutukawa and rata belong to the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) which is made up of about 3000 different tropical and warm temperate trees, shrubs and vines. Eucalyptus, feijoas, cloves, guavas and bottlebrushes are a few family members.
In New Zealand myrtles are represented by some of our best known plants: kanuka, manuka and some less familiar, but nevertheless significant species like swamp maire and ramarama.
Both pohutukawa and rata belong to the genus Metrosideros, the iron hearted myrtles, a reference to their hard, very heavy, dark red heartwood.
There are two native pohutukawa (mainland and Kermadec) and six species of rata vine, a shrub and three tree rata.
Project Crimson concentrates on the mainland pohutukawa and the tree rata – northern, southern and Bartlett’s - as these are the most threatened by possums and people.