Kahikatea are our forest giants, one of the characteristic podocarps of New Zealand, specialised for growing around wetlands and forming swamp forest.
When mature, kahikatea are New Zealand’s tallest trees. It belongs to the genus Dacrycarpus, one of New Zealand’s oldest podocarp fossils and at one time lived in Antarctica, Australia and South America. Every few years they bear massive crops of red berries providing a huge food source for kererū and tūī.
In days past kahikatea were found in the wet valleys of the Abel Tasman. However they are now rare as they were cut down for timber to make butter boxes. The timber is not durable so it was never used for housing or fencing.
One of the best places to see kahikatea is at Hadfield Clearing, at the back of the Awaroa estuary. Project Janszoon is undertaking a reforestation project to extend the existing 10 hectares of kahikatea. Ultimately, 25 hectares will be planted here in kahikatea along with other suitable native species.
You can also visit a kahikatea up close at Tinline and at Te Pukatea Bay. There is a cluster of young kahikatea at the head of the Anchorage wetland as well.
Photo courtesy of Chris Ecroyd