Rawhiti Cave, a phytokarst cave in Takaka, New Zealand.

Nestled in an obscure hillside, and guarded by a long and winding uphill trek that would put off even the hardiest of white knights, lies Rawhiti Cave. 


The stalactites stretch out towards the sunlight like daisies on a hot day. Formed over a million years, the stones icicles are festooned with various mosses and algae. They pay homage to the continual 'drip drip drip' of unseen waters.

Through a strange kind of alchemical process, the unseen waters deposit calcium carbonate over the stone, plants and all, thus incorporating them into the structure of the stalactites. This bonding creates a new material, called Phytokarst. Because plants respond to light, growing faster on the sunlit side, the stalactites also grow towards the light. 

Sunlight at the entrance to Rawhiti Cave.
Stalactites covered in phytokarst, at Rawhiti Cave.
Delicate fern plants growing in Rawhiti Cave, NZ.
Looking down into Rawhiti Cave, New Zealand.