Out of 170 different tree species that were planted in the Tokorangi Forest as part of the trial only a handful remain today. Radiata Pine (from 1900) or Monterey Pine adapted to the conditions well and has become the most important commercial species in New Zealand today. About 90% of trees planted for production in New Zealand are Radiata Pine.
Of the original 12 hectares of Californian Redwoods (from 1901) that were planted, only six hectares remain today. This stand of trees is named the Redwood Memorial Grove.
Other small areas of Patula Pine (1941), Tasmanian Blackwood (1906), Douglas Fir (from 1905), Australian Eucalypts (from 1903), Tasmania Oak (1900), European Larch (from 1901), English Walnut (1903), Japanese Cedar (1913), Mexican Cypress (1969), Oriental Plane Tree (1902), Silver Wattle (1924), various Acacias (1940) and Radiata Pine survived along with the Californian Redwoods and can be found in the forest today.
Californian Coast Redwood
Botanical name - Sequoia sempervirens
Natural habitat – a narrow strip down the west coast of America, USA
The ‘Coast Redwood’ has green, flat, tapered needles in symmetrical rows. The bark is redbrown, very thick and spongy. The common name "Redwood" comes from the tree’s heartwood which is a light cherry colour and can darken to nut-brown when exposed to air.
The Redwood Memorial Grove surrounds the Visitor Centre on Long Mile Road. Other Redwoods planted at a later date can be seen near the Green Lake and off Pohaturoa Road.
The botanical name for the Redwood is sequoia sempervirens. This name was given to the species by a German botanist to honour the half-caste Cherokee Chief, Seqoyah. Chief Seqoyah developed an alphabet to enable his tribe’s dialect to be written.
It was the reputation of this timber in North America that led to the planting of the Redwood Grove in 1901. The Redwood trees were planted nearly five metres apart with European larch between acting as shelter trees for the young Redwoods. As the Redwoods grew much faster, most of the larch did not survive. The Redwoods were pruned up to 15 metres in 1939. The results of the planting were mixed – of the original 12 hectares, only six hectares survive today. This did not deter planters, and overall, around 4000 hectares were planted throughout New Zealand in the 1920s and 1940s. Approximately one percent of those plantings remains today.
The Redwoods are successful in this grove because they like sheltered sites in deep, fertile, well drained soils with an even rainfall. They do not tolerate frosts and in harsh sites are very slow growing and easily smothered by weeds.
The largest Redwood in Whakarewarewa is approximately 67 metres tall and 169 centimetres in diameter. In its natural habitat of California, these Redwoods grow as tall as 110 metres and the average lifespan is 600 years old. However, they can grow to over 2000 years old. The bark can grow to 30 centimetres thick giving excellent insulation and protection against insects and fire which are common in their natural habitat. California has many lightning strikes causing forest fires. The bark acts as a cork-like layer protecting the inner trunk of the tree and allowing it to produce shoots through the dead outer layer several months after the fire.
In North America the timber is widely used for general building purposes and is sought after for weatherboards, outdoor decks and decorative uses. Because of its high durability and lack of odour it is also used for spa pools, tanks and vats. It is imported into New Zealand for joinery and exterior finishing.
In New Zealand the timber is not useful for many purposes. The trees tend to grow rapidly therefore have large cores of soft, brittle, low density wood.
Did you know…?
A road runs through a tall redwood tree in this file photo from 1955. Officials would not disclose the location of Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree, for fear that too many visitors could damage the delicate ecology of the California forest where it lives.
The tallest living tree is a Coastal Redwood called "Hyperion" and is 115.6 metres or 379.1 foot tall. It was found in a remote Redwood State Park on the northern most coast of California in 2006.
The largest living tree in the world is a giant Redwood called the General Sherman. Its volume is 1489m3. The fourth largest is New Zealand’s Kauri called Tane Mahuta at 516.7m3.
A Redwood also makes it into the top 3 of the oldest living trees. The oldest known Giant sequoia is 3266 years old with the oldest tree in the world being 4844 years old which is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine found in the White Mountains of California.
Flora & Fauna
The upper canopy of the towering Californian Redwoods, Larch and other species of trees provide shelter and shade to a kaleidoscope of ferns, shrubs, flowers and fungi. The mostly native plants not only add to the scenic value of your forest experience but are also and integral part of the forest eco-system.
Ferns are commonplace in the New Zealand landscape with about 200 hundred different varieties in New Zealand half of which are endemic and can be found right throughout the country. They have evolved into forms that can cope in just about any environment from the tussock grasslands to geothermal areas to storm-battered coastal cliffs and everything in between. So not surprisingly one of the most noticeable plants dominating the understory in The Redwoods is the fern.
The Kiokio or Palm-Leaf fern is the most common creeping ground fern with its new growth tinged pink.
The Wheki or Rough Tree Fern is the most common of the tree ferns and grows in abundance in the Redwoods. Maori once used this fern for forming walls of their houses as it lasts well in the ground. Today it is still used for fences and steps and to define forest tracks.
The Ponga or Silver Tree Fern is one of the most distinctive with its silvery white stalk and underside of mature fronds. It is one of New Zealand’s national emblems shown clearly on the chest of the All Blacks rugby jersey.
The Mamaku or Black Tree Fern is the most spectacular of the ferns found in The Redwoods. Growing up to 20 metres tall the fronds arch out from thick black storks. This is the largest of the tree ferns and was very important to Maori in times gone by being used as a food, as a medicine and lining for food stores.
Aside from ferns a variety of spleenwort, pittosporums, coprosmas and native re-growth can be seen. Along with a spattering of brightly coloured imports such as foxgloves.
Animals & Birds
The Redwoods and Whakarewarewa Forest is home to many different animals and birds and they play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance of the forest. We have no dangerous animals or snakes so the forest is a beautiful and safe place to visit.
Unlike some forests in warmer climates where there is a plethora of colourful birds and animals, New Zealand’s birds and animals tend to blend in with the environment and like to be undisturbed.
Within The Redwoods and on some of the shorter walks you may see birds such as Tomtits, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Waxeyes and Californian Quails. The friendly and inquisitive Fantail may also follow you on your walk chirping and fluttering in and out of the trees.
An expedition further into the forest will be necessary to increase your chances of seeing other species of birds. If you are lucky you may see a Tui, Pigeon, Bellbird, Cuckoo or a Harrier Hawke. You are likely to come across a few smaller animals such as rabbits but could also see a Wallaby and if you really lucky could see a deer or wild pig.
At night time the forest really comes alive with animal sounds. The Wallabies who prefer being active at night will venture out searching for food as well as the nocturnal Possum sniffing out peoples scraps around bins and the Ruru or Morepork can also be heard calling into the night.
Great recyclers of dead plants, animal material and waste or a source of food for others, insects thrive in the forest environment.
There are a large number of inconspicuous insects that contribute to the forest ecology. However unless you dig around in the forest floor you will only see a fraction of the insects that have made the forest their home.
Some that you may see are the Uropetala Carovei a native dragonfly known as the "devil’s darning needle" due to its large size of about 8cm. You may come across stick insects, bees and the Clapping Cicada with its loud song that can be heard throughout the forest during the warmer months.
If you are interested in insects there is a bug cabinet inside The Redwoods Gift Shop & Visitor Centre which gives a greater appreciation of other insects that live in the forest.
Kids Discovery Packs
Designed to get your children looking at the environment around them while still having fun!
The pack for 6 to 8 year olds includes various puzzles, a colouring in page, things to find in the forest, a pencil and some goodies.
The pack for 8 year olds or over includes various puzzles, eco-system questions, a space to draw a picture, a pencil and some goodies.
Included in these packs is the Redwoods Junior Explorer Trail. Go on the trail and answer all the questions to become a Junior Explorer! If you wish you can also download a Junior Explorer Trail Map here ready for your next visit to The Redwoods or you can pick a copy for FREE from The Redwoods Gift Shop & Visitor Centre. Don't forget to collect your reward when you finish!
Have fun with your kids and help them to experience the Redwoods in a new way by purchasing a Kids Discovery Pack. We know you'll love it just as much as they will.
Last Updated : May 15, 2013
Contacting the Redwoods
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