If you look at the head of the Anchorage wetland you will see a cluster of conical trees. These are young kahikatea, one of the characteristic podocarps of New Zealand, specialised for growing around wetlands, forming swamp forest. Rimu is a specialist of moist hillslopes, while tōtara grows best along fertile river valleys.

When mature, kahikatea are New Zealand’s tallest trees. Every few years they bear massive crops of red berries providing a huge food source for kererū and tūī. Kahikatea were characteristic of the park in the wet valleys.

You can visit one up close at Tinline, and they also occur at Te Pukatea Bay. They are, however, now rare because the timber was highly valued to make boxes in which to export butter. The timber is not durable, so was not used for housing or fencing.

Kahikatea belongs to the genus Dacrycarpus, one of New Zealand’s oldest podocarp fossils and at one time lived in Antarctica, Australia and South America. It has retreated and migrated north so that today other species grow in Fiji and South East Asia; in New Guinea forming pure stands of high altitude forest.



Kahikatea—photo Geoff Button