Dead Coral Tree

Dead coral tree

There is that dead tree in the shallows of Otarawao (Sullivans) Bay near the mouth of Mahurangi Harbour. I usually don’t pay attention to it. It’s covered with silt, not much stuff lives on it except a few anemones and ascidians. Plus I saw a conger eel in its hollow trunk once.

Last spring (end of year 2015) the tree surprised me though. First I could see only the familiar shapes of its branches in the murky water. then I realised, there was something bright orange growing on them … more-or-less everywhere. A closer inspection revealed soft corals called dead man’s fingers (Alcyonium aurantiacum). Their white translucent polyps were out looking for prey. It was such an unusual view in those waters. I returned to the tree a couple of times later during the summer. The corals were still there, but the polyps were retracted which reduced those beautiful shapes into small blobs.

The tree lies in a shallow water, I guess it is sensitive to any swell, at least at low tide. I wonder if the corals will be still there when I visit the tree next time.