New Zealand’s ‘Walking Tree’ Declared the 2024 Tree of the Year

This unique northern rātā tree strides to the finish.

Jul 1, 2024


Plants, Nature
New Zealand’s ‘Walking Tree’ Declared the 2024 Tree of the Year | This unique northern rātā tree strides to the finish.

New Zealand is home to some of the most unusual tree species including baobabs, night blooming Kōhūhū, Pohutukawa, and the northern rātā – one of the country’s tallest flowering plants –to name just a few. But one northern rātā in Karamea — called “The Walking Tree” — is truly unique. That’s why it won the New Zealand Arboricultural Association (NZ Arb) 2024 tree of the year, according to a press release from the organization.

The walking tree that is located near the Karamea Cemetery has twin trunks that makes it appear to be walking in high heels. It has captivated kiwis for generations. That’s because it resembles one of J.R. Tolkien’s tree-like Ents.

Northern rātā trees can live for 1,000 years but no one knows how old this one is, reported The Press. But trees of this type are disappearing due to natural and man-made causes. One was recently downed by high winds; others are cut down.

Tree of the Year
The tree was nominated by Bryan Bell for NZ Arb’s tree of the year competition and captured 42 percent of the votes. Each of the trees that are nominated tells a story about the connection between New Zealanders and their trees.

The walking tree was almost cut down when Pete Curry's family cleared the land in 1875.  “The land was dense bush and my great grandfather and his brothers cleared it for farming,” Curry  told The Press. “They must have thought the tree was unique because they didn't leave anything else. They slashed and burned everything in those days.”

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But the tree remained standing and it became very popular due to its unique appearance. Standing 32-meters tall, it is a symbol of strength and resilience since the roots of the walking tree are not very strong due to its split trunk.

The competition
People can nominate a specific tree that they consider special, not a species. The nominees had to tell the tree’s story about what makes it special.

“Community participation is the key to growing the understanding of the important role that trees have in our lives. This competition is a celebration of our living legends,” Tree of the Year chairperson Brad Cadwallader said.

 NZ Arb’s 2024 Tree Campaign was sponsored by Delta, according to the press release, and supported by the New Zealand Tree Register and NZ Notable Trees Trust. It is an annual event.

“The Walking Tree is a prime example of the remarkable trees that we, as New Zealanders, are fortunate to experience. This award recognizes the significant role that trees play within our communities, not only enhancing our local environments but also providing a sense of place for past, present, and future generations,” Richie Hill, president of NZ Arb said in the press release.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.