A shrub 3 to 12 ft high in a wild state, of erect habit, much-branched; young shoots glabrous, flat, often leafless, 1⁄8 in. wide. In young seedling plants the leaves are 1 in. or more long and made up of three or five wedge-shaped leaflets notched at the end; in the adult state of the plants the leaves disappear altogether or become very much reduced and less than 1⁄4 in. long. Flowers pale purple, scarcely 3⁄16 in. long, crowded in short clusters of up to a dozen. Calyx bell-shaped, with small triangular teeth. Pod oval, 3⁄8 in. long, narrowed to a beak at the end, carrying one to four red seeds. Bot. Mag., t. 8972.
The above description, taken from previous editions of this work, is of a plant, no longer at Kew, which grew well in a nook on the sunny side of a greenhouse, producing in June and July an amazing profusion of its pale purple flower-clusters. It was probably a plant of the old introduction, figured in Bot. Mag., t. 912, and in cultivation since before 1823 as a greenhouse shrub. However, C. australis is a rather confused species and not recognised by Allan in Flora of New Zealand (1961), in which C. australis in the old sense is distributed among five species. Of these, the plant described above would appear to be nearest to the following two species:
C. egmontiana (Ckn. & Allan) Simpson C. australis var. egmontiana Ckn. & Allan – This shrub is a native of the North Island of New Zealand where it ascends to sub-alpine elevations on Mount Egmont and in the Pouakai Range. From the plant described this differs in its narrower branchlets (normally about 1⁄12 in. wide); the shape of the pods is given as obliquely oblong. C. cunning-hamii Raoul is closely allied, but has wider branchlets (1⁄8 to 1⁄6 in.) and oblong to almost orbicular pods with one to two seeds, orange-red more or less mottled with black. It is common in North Island at low elevations and doubtless more tender than C. egmontiana.