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Podocarpus Totara – Tree of the Month

February 13, 2024 February 2024, Regular Features No Comments

Growing tall and proud, but rather alone: Totora in the playground.

By Martin Freeth – Trees of Martinborough

Hot summer days help us appreciate trees like this one – the 70 year old totara in the Waihinga Centre grounds. The tree is looking very healthy, providing shade to play areas and gives high “amenity value” (visual appeal) to the grounds. 

In 2019, a letter signed by 83 Martinborough residents formally asked South Wairarapa District Council to ensure preservation and protection of this totara. Council officers had suggested removing the tree for the health and safety of children: Tree roots were said to be causing damage to the concreted basketball court and skate park next to its trunk. A subsequent arborist’s report said “remedial options are available to retain the tree,” without significant affects on the court or skate park. The arborist put a value of $23,000-$28,000 on the tree, considering all its benefits. Nearly five years on, this totara is looking better than ever – and the concrete appears in good shape too. 

Have a look for yourself! 


Totara, a New Zealand native, grows up to 30 metres high with a diameter of up to 2 meters. It has a juvenile, adolescent and mature form. Starting with spindly, almost weeping branches covered in fine needle-like leaves through a pyramidal tree phase, to eventually acquiring a massive trunk and branches that bear dense foliage. 

Totara trees, also known as Podocarpus totara, can live 800 to 1,800 years.

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