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New Zealand Wants Tourists To Stop Climbing Its Famous ‘Wanaka Tree’

The lone crack willow that lives just off the edge of Lake Wanaka in the Otago region of New Zealand‘s south island is the country’s most-photographed tree, famed for its peculiar placement and completely stunning surrounds. While the so-called Wanaka Tree provides the perfect photo opportunity for travellers, some are getting a little too up close and personal, putting it at risk.

Although the tree is in a lake, waters are often low enough that visitors are able to walk all the way out and climb the tree. It’s causing a lot of strain on the Wanaka tree’s already fragile branches – one of which snapped off just before Christmas last year.


The deterioration of the iconic tree is partly due to its popularity, and partly due to the fragile nature of the plant. Tim Errington, the arboricultural officer for the Queenstown Lakes District Council, told Lonely Planet that the Wanaka tree’s name – Salix fragilis – is derived from the fact that the wood is brittle and easily snaps.

He explained that the tree is already growing in a challenging environment, as the roots of the tree are often totally submerged by cold water, which slows its growth.


In order to prevent tourists from climbing the Wanaka Tree in future, the New Zealand Tourism Board plans to install warning signs written in multiple languages.

Next time you’re popping in to visit the Wanaka Tree remember to look, don’t touch.

(Lead image: Hamish Clark)

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