Today as a nation we recognise the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and today’s Google Doodle spotlights the flora unique to our island nation - the silver fern, the Kōwhai and the Pōhutakawa flowers which are emblems of New Zealand’s diverse plant life. Our geographical isolation in the Pacific Ocean means that some 80 percent of the islands’ fern, flower, and tree species are native. What makes this even more special, is that most can be found nowhere else in the world.
For years we’ve worn the silver fern with pride, badging our nation’s uniforms for sports teams or military troops. The silver fern was traditionally seen by Māori as a symbol of strength and resilience and has become a symbol of our national identity and spirit. Practically, the underside of the fern’s leaves can reflect moonlight, and act as a guide through the forest at night for twilight travellers.
The unofficial national flower, the bright yellow blossoms of the Kōwhai tree, act as a sign of the end of winter. But more than just visually stunning, the tree’s bark is renowned for its medicinal properties, useful for treating everything from dandruff to seal bites.
Finally, the Pōhutukawa’s crimson flowers bloom around the holiday season, lending it the name “New Zealand Christmas Tree.” The plant figures prominently in Māori legends as a bridge between the living and the spirit world, and has become a contemporary symbol of home for kiwis here and abroad.
Happy Waitangi Day 2019!