An evergreen shrub or small tree from 8 to 25 ft high, but in exposed alpine localities, according to Cheeseman, often reduced to a bush 3 to 6 ft high. The ‘leaves’ are usually very crowded and vary much in shape and size. On scrubby bushes growing on the mountains at 5,000 ft elevation the ‘leaves’ are small and narrow, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long and 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. wide. But at lower elevations and growing under more favourable circumstances they are as much as 11⁄2 in. long and 3⁄4 in. wide, ovate to rhomboid in shape, sometimes pinnately lobed, often merely irregularly toothed. Nuts produced a few together, each nut about the size of a radish seed, the apex exposed.
Native of the North and South Islands of New Zealand, most abundant at elevations of 1,500 to over 5,000 ft. It differs from the other two New Zealand species (P. glaucus and P. trichomanoides) in the irregularly disposed branchlets and ‘leaves’, those two species having them pinnately arranged. It is more closely related to the Tasmanian P. asplenifolius. Although the hardiest of the genus, its rather congested growth and crowded ‘leaves’ make it the least elegant and effective. It has attained a height of 11 ft in the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, Kent.
cv. ‘Silver Blades’. – ‘Leaves’ (phylloclades) silvery blue. Raised by Messrs Hillier and put into commerce in 1968. They state that the colour is best developed under glass.