“Wouldn’t it be amazing if trees could talk?” a tourist standing next to me wondered.
I nodded my agreement. It would be amazing, especially since we were standing in front of Tane Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’), a 2,500 year old kauri tree in Waipoua Forest.
Can you imagine what stories he could tell? Maybe he could give a definite year the first humans arrived in New Zealand or give us a picture of the now extinct Moa bird. He could describe what happened to the island during massive volcanic eruptions or how his roots trembled with the waves of earthquakes.
Kauri trees are some of the largest and oldest conifers on the planet. Unlike their sequoia and redwood relatives, their wood is great for building, so there are not that many of them left.
In New Zealand they survive in clumps, carefully guarded by the Department of Conservation. Because of a disease devastating the trees, you have to wash the soles of your shoes before entering and exiting an area where kauri trees exist.
I had heard about the kauri trees prior to arriving in New Zealand, but only in the context of “really big trees.” In my head they looked like redwoods since they were related. I had seen redwoods before, but since I was driving in their direction anyways, I stopped to take a look.
Kauri trees look a bit like giant heads of broccoli towering above the rainforest. Moss and lichen speckle their smooth trunks. The trees erupt in a spurt of leaves at the top. Vines drip from their branches for added effect.
Their bark is mostly white, which means when the sun shines on them it gives the trees an aura as though they are glowing. When I walked into a clearing containing Te Matua Ngahere, the second largest kauri, from a distance it appeared that he was glowing.
Standing beside these trees made me feel small, not just in stature but in importance. My 22 years on this planet were nothing in the lifespan of this tree. Me standing in front of it taking its picture meant nothing to it. I was just another person, of I’m sure millions of people, who had taken selfies with this tree.
Kinda puts life in perspective.