An evergreen tree of very large size; young shoots clothed with very minute down. Leaves of firm texture, ovate or ovate-lanceolate, rounded or broadly wedge-shaped, pointed, finely and unevenly toothed, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 5⁄8 in. wide, dark glossy green above, paler bright green beneath, sometimes specked when older with minute blackish glands on both surfaces, but more densely beneath; chief veins inconspicuous; stalk 1⁄12 in. long. Male flowers mostly in threes; stamens bright red. Valves of husk with short, tooth-like appendages; nutlets three.
Native of Chile and Argentina. It is a common and characteristic tree of the Chilean forests in their most developed form, and the most beautiful, assuming when old a cedar-like habit. In the northern part of its range it often occurs with one or other of the two main deciduous species – N. obliqua and N. procera – and occasionally all three can be found growing in the same stand. But it ranges farther to the south than either (to about 46° S.).
N. dombeyi was introduced to Britain by F. R. S. Balfour of Dawyck, who presented a large quantity of seeds to Kew in 1916. Of these only four germinated, but thanks to later importations, and the ease with which plants can be raised from cuttings, the species is now well established in cultivation. It has proved to be scarcely less hardy than N. betuloides, though it may suffer slight damage in severe winters.
As the following statistics show, N. dombeyi is well represented in southern England, though it does not attain such a large size as in the Atlantic zone, where the rainfall is higher and the climate more equable: Kew, near the Victoria Gate, pl. 1922, 45 × 33⁄4 ft (1967), and several younger trees elsewhere in the collection; Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey, pl. 1937, 45 × 41⁄2 ft (1969); The Grange, Benenden, Kent, pl. 1922, 56 × 43⁄4 ft (1972); Borde Hill, Sussex, by The Tolls, 59 × 31⁄2 ft (1968); Nymans, Sussex, 67 × 51⁄2 ft (1970); Little Kingsmill Grange, Bucks, 58 × 31⁄2 ft (1968); Pylewell Hall, Hants, 57 × 31⁄4 ft (1970); Minterne, Dorset, 62 × 6 ft (1967); Sidbury Manor, Devon, 57 × 5 ft (1959); Caerhays, Cornwall, 65 × 51⁄2 ft (1965); Trewithen, Cornwall, 60 × 6 ft (1971); Bodnant, Denbigh, 58 × 81⁄4 ft at 1 ft (1966); Muncaster Castle, Cumb., four trees, the largest 75 × 6 ft (1971); Castle Kennedy, Wigtons., 70 × 71⁄2 ft (1967); Rowallane, Co. Down, 66 × 71⁄4 ft and 55 × 6 ft (1966). The following were measured in Eire in 1966: Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, 72 × 81⁄2 ft; Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, 58 × 4 ft; Headfort, Co. Meath, 60 × 81⁄2 ft.
N. nitida (Phil.) Krasser Fagus nitida Phil. – This species, allied to N. betuloides and N. dombeyi, is little known and probably not in cultivation. It is an evergreen with coarsely toothed leaves, which are triangular-ovate or rhombic, up to 13⁄8 in. long and 1 in. wide. The male flowers are borne in threes as in N. dombeyi, but are said to have fewer stamens. It occurs in the coastal region of Chile from as far north as the Cordillera Pelada near Valdivia to at least as far south as Capo Tres Montes at the northern end of the Golfo de Penas, and is common on the coast of Chiloe Island. A peculiarity of this species is the clear brown colour of the leaves in herbarium specimens.