Paddling amongst Giants – Trees of the West Coast – Franz Josef Tours, Franz Josef Glacier

Paddling amongst Giants – Trees of the West Coast – Franz Josef Tours, Franz Josef Glacier

by | Jan 18, 2020

TThe Tai Poutini National Park located on the West Coast of the South Island is home to a diverse array of plant and tree species. There are over 6000 different species native to New Zealand. Many of these can be found in our thriving rain forests.



Kahikatea – White Pine

Those that make up the visible tree line in swampy lowland areas are often giant Kahikatea trees. The Kahikatea are an ancient species dating back to the Jurassic Period. Fossilized pollen and leaf material were found within Jurassic rocks dating back to 150 – 200 million years ago.


Being New Zealands tallest tree species these can grow upwards of 60 meters. These days the Kahikatea grow in much fewer places that they once did due to clearing for farmland.


Timber from Kahikatea trees wasn’t highly regarded by European settlers in comparison to other coniferous tree species.  However, an important use was for transporting dairy such as cheese and butter thanks to the odorless wood.

These trees provided many uses for the native Maori. For instance, the fleshy Aril that surrounded seeds became and important food source.  Versatile and easy to construct, spears made from the wood proved good for hunting birds.

Maori created tattooing pigment from the soot of the burnt heartwood. Ta Moko are the traditional tattoos and for centuries Maori have been performing them. Kahikatea trees are deep rooted in their history and culture.

Rimu – Red Pine

Throughout lowland and lower mountain regions, The Rimu is one of the most common and widely distributed conifers in New Zealand. Although they are slow growing, they can eventually reach upwards of 50 meters, joining the Kahikatea at filling the forest canopy.



In the juvenile stage of growth weeping branches and foliage make it an easily recognizable. After that, as trees mature and ascend further away from the forest floor the scale leaves start to shorten and the bark separates.


Known as watermarks, these patterned formations can be good indicators of tree age. With a lifespan of up to 1000 years, existing individual Rimu trees can easily pre-date the arrival of both European and Maori settlers in New Zealand.


Join us for an up close and personal paddle in and around our beautiful West Coast Rain Forest. For more details regarding tour time and booking visit our website BOOK HERE