Rata trees, along with the pohutukawa, are one of the best known native trees in New Zealand. The rata and pohutukawa belong in the myrtle family of trees. Other members of this family include manuka, kanuka and swamp maire. There are two main types of rata, the northern and southern.
Rata trees have glossy dark green leaves and trunks that are often gnarled and twisted. However they are best known for their brilliant red flowers that appear in profusion from November to January, depending on location, and can be seen from some distance away. The trees tend to flower well only once every few years and seem to favour the high rainfall conditions of the West Coast. Native birds such as the tui, bellbird and kaka all benefit from the presence of rata trees in the forest.