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Rata is related to pohutukawa. Both flower in red around Christmas time or early summer and they belong to the myrtle family with manuka and kanuka. There are two types of rata, northern and southern.
Northern Rātā reaches a height around 25 metres and starts life as an epiphyte (often from the branches of a big forest tree). It takes centuries for the roots to fully wrap around the trunk of its host. In areas of less forest cover, Northern Rata can grow from the ground but will have a shorter trunk.
Unlike the northern variety, Southern Rata always grows from the ground. It reaches up to 15 metres and flowers in early summer.
Both varities of rata prefer high rainfall areas and so it is common to see both the northern and southern Rata in rainforests on the South Island's north, as well as the wetter West Coast. In the North Island, the Northern Rata benefits many New Zealand birds such as the Kaka, Tui, and Bellbird.