An evergreen tree up to 45 ft high in the wild, glabrous in all its parts except for some stellate down on the young leaves and inflorescences. Adult leaves broad ovate to ovate-lanceolate or elliptic, 3 to 61⁄2 in. long, usually acute at the apex (more rarely acute, obtuse or rounded), rounded to truncate or slightly heart-shaped at the base, margins coarsely double-toothed; leaf-stalks about 4⁄5 in. long. Juvenile plants may resemble the adult ones in foliage and branching, or they may form a mass of slender, tangled stems with small leaves of very variable shape, but such plants would not be seen in cultivation unless the species were raised from seeds. Flowers white, about 1 in. across, borne singly in the leaf-axils or in five- to ten-flowered cymose clusters. Calyx campanulate, with triangular teeth. Styles five, rarely six; stigmas capitate. Carpels five, rarely six, with broad wings.
Native of the North Island of New Zealand, at low elevations. It is a very variable species, occurring here and there in forms that depart markedly from the above description in their leaves. H. populnea is certainly tender, and not common in Britain.
cv. ‘Alba Variegata’. – Leaves with a broad margin of white. Raised by Messrs Duncan and Davies of New Plymouth, New Zealand. To the catalogues of this firm we are indebted also for the following descriptions.
cv. ‘Osbornei’. – Leaves purplish beneath. Flowers with purplish blue stamens. In cultivation at Garnish Island, Co. Cork, Eire.
cv. ‘Purpurea’. – Veins and undersurface of leaves copper-coloured.
cv. ‘Variegata’. – Leaves variegated creamy yellow.
H. angustifolia Raoul H. populnea var. angustifolia (Raoul) Hook. f. – This species is allied to H. populnea but the leaves are only 7⁄8 to 11⁄4 in. long and relatively narrower, set with large, distant, spine-like teeth. The flowers are mostly borne singly in the leaf-axils, more rarely in clusters, and measure about 3⁄4 in. across. Styles and carpels five.
A plant at Borde Hill, in Sussex, grown against a garden wall, appears to belong to this species. The clone derived from it has been named ‘Borde Hill’ and is in commerce. Award of Merit 1967.