Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969


I have a tiny booklet, 'Notable Exotic Trees' by S.W. Burstall of the New Zealand Forest Service. A copy of our Journal which contained a reference to a willow oak in the Paeroa domain found its way to the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua and in the course of enquiries about the oak tree, Mr. Burstall sent me his booklet.

A copy of this publication ought to be with the driving-licence in the pocket of every Historical Society member's car so that the pleasure and interest of future trips to places in our province could be enhanced by visits to the notable trees listed in the booklet. Addresses and biographical details are given.

Members might like the animism, as I do, in Mr. Burstall's approach. In his brief foreword he speaks of 'the climate and soils of New Zealand suiting these exotic species, which had become accustomed to living with humans and their domestic animals better than the indigenous plant life (of N.Z.) was able to'. And he says 'The oldest tree I met was a pear planted in 1818 at KeriKeri... said to be linked with Marsden... still healthy enough to bear fruit but in need of some tree surgery! No old-age benefits yet for Pyrus Communis!

The only thing I do not like about the booklet is the absence of listings from Thames Valley. This omission is to be rectified in a forthcoming edition. Mr. Burstall has the measurements and historic details of two trees from Paeroa and has promised to include them.

Waihi, Te Aroha and Thames should also make their contribution. Notable trees are often hidden in back streets or on the fringes of a town end only local residents know of them. Advertisement and celebrity could be protective.

In June 1968 a large tree was felled on the property in Puke Road occupied until recently by Miss Leila Thorp. The low ridge near Puke Bridge is the Westminster Abbey of Paeroa and no one familiar with local history would be surprised at the finding of important relics there. This was a big tree and when it had been felled parts of it were brought to Mr. Harry Wilton for identification and assessment for timber value. The tree was a Sequoia gigantia (or S.Wellingtonia) the Californian big tree whose timber-value, surprisingly enough, is small. Had it survived it would have had to compete for a place in Mr. Burstall's book with a formidable 103 year old specimen 129 feet high in S. Canterbury. Apparently no one knew that it was a unique tree in this area and these few words are its only obituary.

In a recent 'Herald' week-end magazine, David More pleading on behalf of the Auckland Civic Trust for the preservation of notable trees, included some splendid sketches of well-known trees in the city. Most people would recognise the three ancient, sentinel kanukas near the War Memorial Museum. It is a pity that more of the old-timers in our province could not have the benefit of championship by so able an artist.

Should you know of trees in our area with historic potential, write to Mr. Burstall at the Rotorua Forestry Research Institute. You can be assured of his interest and activity.