Friday, August 5, 2011

The true case of a very old oak tree at Waimate North

Trawling through the old newspapers sometimes brings up some fascinating history. This time it was the issue over whether or not the old English Oak tree situated at the old Anglican Mission Station at Waimate North was indeed the oldest Oak in New Zealand as the Evening Post in

THE OLDEST OAK IN NEW ZEALAND AN INTERESTING CONTROVERSY.

AUCKLAND, This Day. The controversy about the oldest oak in New Zealand has brought to light a specimen which, being now over a century old, may with some safety be accorded the title.

The tree is in the grounds of the old Anglican mission station at Waimate North. Recently an oak which formerly stood at Petone, having been planted there by Mr. J. Hewlett Percy in 1842, was claimed by a son of Mr. Percy as the oldest in New Zealand. This assertion is challenged in the "New Zealand Herald" by a correspondent, Mr. W. Johnstone, who stated that at a former Wesleyan mission station at Waima, Hokianga, there was an enormous tree, 80ft high, planted by the Rev. John Warren in 1840. It now appears that the Wesleyan oak when it first sprouted had an Anglican rival sixteen years old, not a great many miles away. This tree was raised from an acorn grown, in Dorset, and planted at Paihia by the Rev. R. Davis, one of the early C.M.B. missionaries, soon after he arrived at the Bay of Islands in the brig Maquarie on 15th August, 1824.

A few years later Mr. Davis's house at Paihia was burned down. The tree, which stood nearby, was saved by being covered with wet blankets. In 1831 Mr. Davis removed to Waimate, taking with him his treasured tree, which he replanted where it now stands.

Its presence there in 1835 was noted by Captain Fitzroy, E.N., afterwards Governor of the colony, who wrote in his journal:

"A thriving young English oak near Mr. Davis's house augured well, for where English oaks succeed very many other useful trees will certainly grow. A living healthy English oak was a sight too rare near the Antipodes to fail in exciting emotion."

When, nearly 20ft high, the tree had much of its lower bark destroyed by sheep which had been penned around it. Mr. Davis, in the hope of saying its life, cut it off about 3ft from the ground. It sprouted again, and is now rather over 50ft high, and the branches have a spread of over 60ft. The trunk, however, is only 7ft high, measuring 10ft 9in in girth.

- Evening Post 8 January 1926

A quick search using google came up with an article from 2008 "Oldest Exotic Trees in the Far North" and sure enough mentioned was the same tree.

"An oak tree planted at Waimate North in 1831 - after being moved from Paihia where it stood for seven years - is New Zealand’s oldest oak at 184-years."

Certainly a fascinating story I checked the Notable Trees of New Zealand website but couldn't find any record. However the Register of the NZ Historic Places Trust for the Mission House notes that the tree is the oldest Oak Tree in the country.

3 comments:

Timespanner said...

It should still be there. The NZHPT registration page online dates from 2010, and refers to the tree.

Mad Bush Farm said...

Thanks Lisa! Much appreciated I'll look it up and link it in

Grant said...

I have now uploaded a record including a photo of this tree to the NZ Notable trees database, should be available shortly...