The tree grows up to 20 metres (66 ft) in height, with a dome-like spreading form. Its natural range is the coastal regions of the North Island of New Zealand, north of a line stretching from New Plymouth (39° S) to Gisborne (38° S). It also grows on the shores of lakes in the Rotorua area. A giant Pōhutukawa at Te Araroa on the East Coast is reputed to be the largest in the country, with a height of 20 metres and a spread of 38 metres (125 ft). The tree is renowned as a cliff-dweller, able to maintain a hold in precarious, near-vertical situations. Some specimens have matted, fibrous aerial roots. Like its Hawaiian relative the ʻōhiʻa lehua (M. polymorpha), the Pōhutukawa has shown itself to be efficient in the colonisation of lava plains – notably on Rangitoto, a volcanic island in the Hauraki Gulf.
The Pōhutukawa flowers from November to January with a peak in mid to late December (the southern hemisphere summer), with brilliant crimson flowers covering the tree, hence the nickname New Zealand Christmas Tree.
Craters of the Moon is a small but highly active geothermal field covering about 50,000 m², close to State Highway 1 a few kilometres north of Taupo, New Zealand. There are numerous steam vents, constantly shifting, collapsing and reforming, giving the whole area desolate appearance, hence the name. There are also some bubbling thermal mud pools.