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A tree within a tree! Depicted above is a rata tree that has grown around another tree. The small roots that were little more than vines in the previous picture have since coalesced into a hollow "pseudo-trunk." The center is a dead and rotting tree (we were unable to identify) and the rata tree is hugging it. The rata tree has killed off its host, and given enough time, the host tree will completely rot away, leaving a rata tree with an apparently hollow trunk. In this manner, the rata tree was able to kill and replace a canopy tree, without opening the canopy, which could have allowed other plant species to compete for the space. The rata will eventually become a taller emergent tree, towering over the main canopy trees of the broadleaf forest. Rata trees are native plants, whose ancestors probably arose in the pacific around 50-60 million years ago. Rata trees are threatened when in the vicinity of introduced possums. Possums show a strong preference for certain species of plants, such as Rata trees which can be killed within three years of continual browsing.

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Taken on February 3, 2012