New Zealand’s Tane Mahuta: “Lord of the Forest”

September 08, 2011

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: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

New Zealand is home to a revered tree giant, Tane Mahuta, which translates from the Maori language as the “Lord of the Forest.” The tree is believed to be 2,000 years old. Other massive trees are found around the world, from the banyan and baobab to the sequoia and cypress. In New Zealand, the honor for being the biggest and tallest falls to a coniferous tree -- the North Island’s kauri (Agathis australis). Much valued for timber in shipbuilding and in homes, the kauri verged upon eradication a century ago. Today reserves protect many remaining groves. Still, some woodworking arts flourish, using the beautiful finished kauri wood. The tree is even the focus of the not-to-be-missed Kauri Museum, in Matahoke, where the kauri’s history and uses are displayed, from rich kauri-paneled rooms to fine furniture, such as cabinets and tables, as well as artful bowls.
Tane Mahuta itself rises like a young child’s drawing of a tree – all trunk, with a bundle of branches and leaves at the top. It brings to mind the stalwart Ents in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings;” the tree-like heroes in the popular Middle Earth film trilogy filmed in New Zealand. Tane Mahuta is found in the tangle of the Waipoua Forest, a subtropical rainforest in New Zealand’s Northland. The tree gets its name from both its size and a Maori god. As the largest known kauri tree overall, Tane Mahuta towers some 169 ft (51.5 m), with a trunk girth of 45.3 ft (13.2 m) and a trunk volume of 8,634 cu ft (244.5 m3), according to dimensions listed at the tree’s site. Other living relatives are actually taller, and in the past it’s known that now-gone kauris were even more impressive.

 Dated tree slice 2A wall in the Kauri Museum is devoted to Tane Mahuta including an oval photo portrait of the tree and a massive diagram of its age and girth. Another giant, cut down in 1960, is also on exhibit (left). The photo of Tane Mahuta was taken February 3, 2008; the photo from the Kauri Museum was taken the next day.

Photo details: Above - Camera Maker: NIKON CORPORATION; Camera Model: NIKON D70; Focal Length: 12.0mm; Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0063 s (1/160); ISO equiv: 200; Exposure Bias: none; Metering Mode: Matrix; Flash Fired: No; Orientation: Normal; Color Space: sRGB. Left - Same except: Focal Length: 18.0mm; Aperture: f/4.0; Exposure Time: 0.200 s (1/5); ISO equiv: 200.