Historic Pear Tree nominated for first-ever Tree of the Year

This year’s Arbor Day (5 June) will have special significance for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga when the first ever Rākau o te tau / Tree of the Year Aotearoa will be announced.

Kerikeri Pear Tree surrounded by a wooden fence.
The historic pear tree at the Kerikeri Basin – now into its third century of life. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

One of the nominated trees this year includes the 200 plus-year-old pear tree in the Kerikeri Basin, directly opposite the Stone Store. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga nominated the landmark tree as a contender for the Tree of the Year title.

The much-loved fruit tree has been part of the Kerikeri landscape for over 200 years and is the sole survivor of 185 fruit trees and grape vines planted by Rev. John Butler at the time the Kerikeri Mission Station was established in 1819. As such, it is the oldest surviving exotic tree in New Zealand and is now into its third century of life.

Registered number 668 on the New Zealand Tree Register, the pear tree is a notable Kerikeri landmark and has survived the musket wars, the threat of fire, and several major flood events over the past two centuries. 

“The pear tree comes from good stock – literally,” says the Manager of the Kerikeri Mission Station Liz Bigwood.

Botanically speaking, our pear tree has an impressive whakapapa.

“It’s likely that the tree originated from Mission Chief Samuel Marsden’s Paramatta Estate in Australia and was planted as part of the need to set up food crops and orchards when Butler was establishing the Church Missionary Society mission at Kerikeri.

“Many of Marsden’s fruit trees from his Paramatta orchard were in turn sourced by no less a person than Sir Joseph Banks in 1803. Botanically speaking, our pear tree has an impressive whakapapa.”

Today, the pear tree is almost entirely hollow but still going strong, and stands opposite the Stone Store which, together with Kemp House, are Tohu Whenua and cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Rākau o te tau / Tree of the Year Aotearoa is an opportunity to highlight our significant trees and share what makes them important. Inspired by the ‘European Tree of the Year’ it is about people telling our cultural tree stories. Everyone is invited to nominate and vote for the greatest trees in the country.