Capturing That Wānaka Tree – From Viral Sensation to Conservation Efforts

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » Capturing That Wānaka Tree – From Viral Sensation to Conservation Efforts

Nestled at the southern tip of Lake Wānaka in New Zealand’s picturesque Otago region stands a solitary willow tree, known affectionately as That Wānaka Tree.

This Crack willow, or Salix × fragilis, is more than just a plant; it’s a symbol of nature’s serene beauty and has become a social media sensation, famous for its solitary stance in the rippling waters.

Popularly tagged as “#ThatWanakaTree” on Instagram, this tree has earned the title of New Zealand’s most celebrated tree, captivating both professional photographers and tourists alike.

That Wanaka Tree in Autumn Sunrise
Autumn Sunrise

Its allure was so profound that a snapshot by Dennis Radermacher clinched the New Zealand Geographic photo of the year award in 2014, highlighting its significant visual impact.

However, the fame of That Wānaka Tree comes with its challenges.

Its branches, often weighed down by eager climbers seeking the perfect photo, have suffered.

The local tourism board, recognizing the tree’s precarious situation, has had to step in with signs pleading visitors to admire from a distance rather than climb.

That Wanaka Tree Sunrise in Winter
Winter Sunrise

Tragically, in March 2020, the tree faced a blatant act of vandalism when several of its limbs were cruelly sawn off and discarded by the lakeside, an event that echoed the vulnerabilities faced by renowned natural landmarks worldwide, from Joshua Tree National Park to Uluru.

The repeated assaults on That Wānaka Tree serve as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between nature’s inherent beauty and the human impulse to interact with it.

As the tree stands resilient yet vulnerable in the cold waters of Lake Wānaka, it continues to draw crowds, inspire art, and provoke conversations about conservation and respect for nature’s marvels.

That Wanaka Tree Summers Day
Summers Day

Digging Deeper


That Wānaka Tree graces the tranquil waters of Lake Wānaka in New Zealand’s Otago region, offering a picturesque solitude that has become iconic.

Type of Tree

The lone figure of That Wānaka Tree is a Crack Willow, scientifically known as Salix × fragilis, thriving uniquely in the aquatic environment of the lake.

That Wanaka Tree Winter Day
Winters Day

Is That Wānaka Tree Still Alive?

Despite enduring damage from both natural elements and human interference, That Wānaka Tree continues to stand resilient in Lake Wānaka.


There are no specific records of direct descendants from That Wānaka Tree, as its solitary existence and unique conditions make natural propagation unlikely.

Can You Visit It?

Visitors are welcome to view That Wānaka Tree, a compelling draw for photographers and nature enthusiasts, though they are urged to respect its fragile state by observing from a distance.

That Wanaka Tree Sunset Autumn
Autumn Sunset


Efforts to preserve That Wānaka Tree include signage to deter physical contact and climbing, aiming to mitigate human impact on this vulnerable natural monument.


That Wānaka Tree’s legacy as an emblem of natural beauty and a subject of artistic inspiration continues to influence discussions about environmental conservation and responsible tourism.

Want More?

If the Wanaka tree has captured your imagination, explore other remarkable trees from across the globe.

Be amazed by the Great Banyan in India, a single tree whose vast roots create an entire forest on their own.

Contemplate the history under the ancient Olive Trees of Gethsemane, where each twisted trunk has centuries of stories to share.

Also, don’t miss the Lone Cypress and the tale of the Great Kapok Tree.

These living landmarks offer more than just insights into ecological history; they deliver memorable encounters with the enduring beauty of nature.

Sources – Wikipedia & Stuff

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!