As you may have guessed from the name, Californian Redwoods aren’t native to New Zealand - but in spite of that, these beautiful, striking trees have become an iconic part of our nation, particularly due to the Redwoods Forest near Rotorua on the North Island. So how exactly has the wonderfully distinctive Redwood tree grown to be a key, recognisable piece of our landscape, and what’s its role in New Zealand today? There’s a bit of a story to that.
Giants in a New Land
Originating in the fog-laden American northwest, Sequoia semperviren (today commonly known as Redwood for the rich cherry-coloured hue of its heartwood) thrived in the damp, coastal climate, stretching into the sky as high as 100 metres or more and living for millennia. These magnificent trees garnered a reputation for their timber’s excellent construction qualities, and it was this reputation that prompted the importing of Redwood seeds into New Zealand at the dawn of the 20th century.
In 1901, Rotorua’s Redwood Grove was planted, and while this particular planting wasn’t an unmitigated success, more and more New Zealand Redwood plantings cropped up in the early and mid 20th century. While as little as 1% of those original plantings remain today (mostly due to our significantly different climate) Californian Redwood has still claimed a place in Aotearoa, and is increasingly being rediscovered as a building material with amazing properties. From its natural resistance to insects and weathering - resulting in a timber that doesn’t need to be chemically treated - to its gorgeous red and golden colouring, Redwood has more than earned its place as a popular cedar alternative for discerning Kiwis. But Redwoods mean more to many New Zealanders than just an excellent timber choice.
Many Kiwis will be most familiar with Redwoods not as locally grown timber, but as a tourism feature. The Redwood Grove, planted all the way back in 1901, is now known as the Redwoods Forest, part of the Whakarewarewa State Forest. While these scenic giants didn’t thrive everywhere they were planted in New Zealand, this particular forest has flourished over the years, thanks to its sheltered, well drained landscape which enjoys regular rain and very little frost.
Today the Redwoods Forest is most well known as the location of some of the country’s oldest and most beloved mountain biking trails. With over 130 kilometres of trails and difficulty grades to suit all ability levels, it’s no surprise that people come from all over the country and around the world to ride amongst the Redwoods. Even if you’re not big on mountain biking, it’s still easy to appreciate these majestic trees. 6 different walking and hiking trails offer experiences ranging from leisurely to intense, and for those seeking something a little out of the ordinary, the Redwoods Treewalk is a must. Constructed from 28 bridges suspended 20 metres above the forest floor, this high flying network not only offers excellent views, but has also been designed to preserve the natural environment which it showcases.
If you’d like to find out about how to get this locally grown treasure built into your home, or even see and handle real-world samples of Redwood timber, get in touch with the Land Milling team and we’ll help you find out anything you need to know!