An evergreen tree attaining a large size in the wild; bark scaly, vertically furrowed on old trees; young shoots wiry, covered with short, dark down. Leaves glossy green, mostly triangular with a truncate base, some broadly ovate or rhombic, a few almost orbicular, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. long, from half to quite as much wide, apex bluntly pointed, margins (except at the base of the blade) bluntly and irregularly single-toothed, both surfaces glabrous; petiole downy, very short. Male flowers solitary, with an irregularly six-lobed perianth. Husk of fruit dividing into four narrow valves about 1⁄4 in. long, bristled over with short decurved scales each of which is terminated by a globular gland which hardens as the fruit ripens; nutlets three, the centre one flattened.
Native of Tasmania, where it varies from an enormous timber tree to a shrub, according to rainfall and altitude; also of Victoria. It was in cultivation as early as 1860 but has never been common and is not reliably hardy. The recorded specimens are: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 26 × 13⁄4 ft (1966); Caerhays, Cornwall, 46 × 31⁄4 ft (1971); Stonefield, Argyll, 53 × 33⁄4 ft (1969); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 53 × 31⁄2 ft (1966); Rowallane, Northern Ireland, 45 × 43⁄4 ft (1966).
N. cunninghamii is closely allied to N. menziesii of New Zealand (q.v. for the marks of difference).