When walking in the New Zealand forest you will often see epiphytes, (by definition an epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant or tree). Epiphytes can be seen within the forest canopy of the Waitakere Ranges, and they are often perched at various heights amongst the branches of other trees. They rely on suspended leaf matter, bark and composting soils for nutrients and moisture and have evolved successfully to retain water to lessen the effect of evaporation.
Just look above you and you will discover these beautiful “tree-huggers”.
Râtâ is considered a chiefly tree (râkau rangatira) by Mâori and was highly prized for making weapons, paddles and flutes due to the tree’s hardness and durability. The nectar was used by Mâori as a food and a medicinal remedy and is known to have good antiseptic qualities. Native birds such as tûî, bellbird and kâkâ also benefit from the nectar.
Râtâ have glossy leaves and the trunks are gnarled and twisted. Râtâ usually begin life as an epiphyte (a small plant perched on a host tree) high in the forest canopy. Its roots grow down to the ground, and eventually enclose the host tree to become a huge tree of up to 25 metres high.
The brilliant red flowers appear during the summer period and are absolutely stunning in contrast with the green leafy background of the forest.
Often it is worth stopping when you are out walking to look at what is around you. There are these little ecosystems of untouched beauty that are growing everywhere amongst the undergrowth along the edges of tracks.
These little plants were nestled amongst fallen tree trunks. I love the way the sunlight has been filtered through the leaves to create a palette of light greens.