It’s a sacred tree. In the old days, the placenta (whenua) was suspended on large twisted trunks of the pohutukawa tree much like similar practices in Thailand.
Pohutukawa holds a prominent place in Māori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki, a young Māori warrior, who attempted to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.
For Māori, the small, venerated pohutukawa is known as “the place of leaping”. It’s from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point, the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.
The Magic of Pohutukawa
An infusion of the inner bark was traditionally used to allay the bleeding of wounds and used as a remedy for diarrhea and dysentery. It was also used for treating thrush of the mouth and venereal disease. The flowers were used to treat sore throat and yield a lot of honey.