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Image depicting Tree of the Year: New Zealand's Walking Tree

Tree of the Year: New Zealand’s Walking Tree


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New Zealand, a land renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife, is home to a tree that seems to defy nature’s laws. Nicknamed the “walking tree,” this solitary northern rātā stands as a testament to resilience, survival, and the enduring power of the natural world.

Its gnarled roots, reminiscent of legs, sprawl across the verdant landscape, giving the illusion of movement. The branches, like ancient arms, reach towards the heavens, whispering tales of centuries past.

This tree, a lone survivor of a vanished forest, has recently been crowned New Zealand’s Tree of the Year, a recognition of its extraordinary beauty and captivating story.

For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the walking tree bears an uncanny resemblance to the Ents, the ancient guardians of the forest. These wise and powerful creatures, depicted as tree-like beings with the ability to move and communicate, are beloved figures in fantasy literature.

The walking tree, with its imposing stature and seemingly deliberate gait, evokes the same sense of wonder and awe.

In the Land of the Long White Cloud, a Tree Walks Alone

The northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta), is a unique species native to New Zealand. Known for its vibrant red flowers and impressive height, it is a symbol of the country’s rich biodiversity.

The walking tree, a particularly old and remarkable specimen, embodies the spirit of the rātā, showcasing its resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

Join us as we journey into the heart of New Zealand to uncover the secrets of the walking tree. We will explore its fascinating history, its unusual root formation, and the environmental challenges it faces.

We will delve into the rich mythology of the Ents and the cultural significance of the rātā.

Prepare to be captivated by the story of a tree that walks, a tree that inspires, a tree that connects us to the magic of nature.

A Tree with a Tale to Tell

In the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, near the tranquil town of Karamea, stands a tree unlike any other. Its roots, resembling gnarled legs, sprawl across the verdant field, giving the illusion of movement.

It’s a solitary sentinel, a living testament to a bygone era. This is the “walking tree,” a northern rātā that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people worldwide.

The resemblance to the Ents of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is uncanny. Tall and majestic, its branches reach out like ancient arms, whispering secrets of centuries past. It is a tree of myth and legend, a living bridge between fantasy and reality.

This extraordinary rātā has earned the prestigious title of New Zealand’s Tree of the Year, a testament to its unique beauty and resilience. Like a wise elder, it has outpaced its competition, its “footsteps” leading it to victory.

It’s a win for the ages, a celebration of nature’s enduring spirit.

Whispers from the Past

The walking tree’s roots run deep, both literally and figuratively. It is estimated to be centuries old, the sole survivor of a forest that once flourished in this very spot. It has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, the changing landscapes, and the relentless march of progress. Yet, it stands tall, a symbol of endurance and hope.

The tree’s unusual root formation is a testament to its remarkable journey. It began its life as an epiphyte, clinging to a host tree, its roots reaching down towards the earth like delicate fingers seeking nourishment.

Over time, the host tree succumbed to the elements, leaving the rātā to stand on its own, its roots adapting to the changing circumstances, creating the illusion of movement.

The walking tree is not just a survivor, it is a thriver. It has weathered storms, droughts, and the encroachment of civilization. And has seen the rise and fall of empires, the passing of generations. Importantly,  it is a living archive, a keeper of memories, a silent witness to the passage of time.

Guardians of the Forest

Deforestation, invasive pests, and climate change threaten the walking tree, despite its strength. The northern rātā, its species, once thrived in New Zealand but now faces a national vulnerability status. This reality serves as a stark reminder of nature’s fragility and the urgent need for conservation efforts.

The walking tree’s victory in the Tree of the Year competition shines as a beacon of hope and a rallying cry for action. It underscores the interconnectedness of all living beings and our shared duty to safeguard them.

As the Maori proverb “Ka mua, ka muri” wisely states, we walk backwards into the future with our eyes fixed on the past. This tree, a precious gift, embodies the enduring power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit. It reminds us that even amidst adversity, hope for a brighter future always exists.

Let us honor this magnificent tree. Let us protect its legacy and ensure its survival for countless generations to come.

Watch a video

Listen to the story of the Walking Tree! (Video: WONDERWORLD23)

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