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.