THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RATA AND POHUTUKAWA
Northern rata is found in the North Island from Te Paki in the north to Wellington in the south. It usually begins life as an epiphyte or plant perched on a mature host tree; over centuries the young tree sends descending and girdling roots down and around the trunk of its host, eventually forming a massive, frequently hollow pseudotrunk composed of fused roots.
The Northern rate has small, leathery, dark green leaves which are 25-50mm long by 15-25mm wide, and have a distinct notch at the tip. The flowers are a mass of dark scarlet stamens that grow in sprays on the tips of branches. The bark is usually brown or grey-brown and rather corky
Southern rata (Metrosideros umbellata) grows from a seed in the ground to become a tree up to 15 metres high with a trunk 1 metre through. It prefers cooler regions with high rainfall and is particularly common along the west coast of the South Island where its nectar is the main source of the local honey.
The flowers of Southern rātā are scarlet, with stamens about 2 cm long. White or yellow flowers are also known. Leaves are from 3 to 6cm long, and are sharply pointed. The wood is hard, dense, and very strong. The bark is rough and flaky.
The tree grows up to twenty metres in height, with a dome-like spreading form. Its natural range is the coastal regions of the North Island. A giant Pōhutukawa at Te Araroa on the East Coast is reputed to be the largest in the country, with a height of 20 metres and a spread of 38 metres. The tree is renowned as a cliff-dweller, able to maintain a hold in precarious, near-vertical situations.
The Pōhutukawa's flowers are a brilliant crimson that completely cover the tree.
RATA OR POHUTUKAWA?
Found in marlborough sounds, I believe this to be a northern rata.