Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/400

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268
PICTURESQUE NEW ZEALAND

and smothered to death by the rata. Ultimately the rata itself becomes a large tree, and in time it completely incloses its victim and crushes out and absorbs its life. Then, with this dead and decaying tree as its heart, the rata proudly rears its massive head, even higher, sometimes, than did the one it conquered, and, like it, defies the fiercest tempest.

The lordliest tree in New Zealand forests is the kauri (Agathis australis). Yet in one respect the kauri's form does not partake of dignity; it is so thick as compared with its height and proportions of trunk and top that it is somewhat squatty. As a rule, about half the tree consists of top, a canopy of long limbs tipped with small bunches of foliage. The tree's average height is from eighty to one hundred feet, with a maximum of one hundred and fifty feet. The diameter of the gray trunks averages from four to twelve feet, although a maximum diameter of twenty-four feet has been found. The finest specimens are on high ground, and it is doubtful whether the tree ever flourished in swamps, as gum deposits suggest. It is more likely, say some investigators, that the gum swamps are subsided areas.

The kauri's age is unknown, estimates varying from hundreds to thousands of years. One tree five feet in diameter was estimated to be three hundred years old. At this rate many kauris have been growing more than a thousand years.

One of the finest objects in the North Island bush is the pohutukawa, the spray-swept tree. Like the cocoa-