A dwarf, much-branched shrub up to 12 in. high, compact in habit; branchlets with two lines of fine down. Leaves 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, closely set together on the stems, spreading, broadly elliptic, broadly ovate or almost rounded, obtuse to almost acute at the apex, sessile (leaf-bud without sinus), slightly concave, green or somewhat glaucous, glabrous, often keeled beneath, especially near the tip. Flowers white, about 3⁄16 in. wide, stalkless, produced in June and July in a cluster of three or four spikes near the end of the shoot, each spike 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, with a very downy main-stalk. Seed-capsule downy.
Native of the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand in Canterbury and Otago provinces, up to 6,000 ft. A rock garden shrub and quite hardy. Cheeseman in his Manual said that this species, in its larger-leaved forms, was scarcely to be distinguished from H. pinguifolia. But in its typical state H. buchananii is distinct enough in its smaller leaves. It is also of dwarfer, denser habit, the leaves are leathery rather than fleshy, the main-stalk of the inflorescence is more hairy and the bracts and calyx-lobes are more markedly ciliate. Apparent intermediates between the two species may well be hybrids. H. buxifolia may occasionally have leaves as small as in the larger-leaved forms of H. buchananii, and is sometimes of dense habit. But the leaves of H. buxifolia are abruptly narrowed at the base to a short petiole, and the leaf-bud consequently has a pronounced sinus; also, it has glabrous seed-capsules.
The diminutive plant called H. buchananii ‘Minor’ represents the extreme of the species in smallness of leaf and dwarfness.