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An evergreen tree of the largest size, described as 100 ft high in the wild; young shoots minutely downy, and in cultivated specimens very zigzagged. Leaves broadly ovate to roundish, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long, glabrous except on the coarsely toothed margins, which are ciliate, especially on the notches, wedge-shaped to truncate at the base; leaf-stalk downy, about 1⁄8 in. long; veins in usually three or four pairs. Husk of fruit nearly 1⁄2 in. long, four-lobed, containing three nutlets.
Native of New Zealand in both islands, from 37° southward. The small tree in the Coombe Wood nursery of Messrs Veitch mentioned in previous editions was about thirty years old in 1906 and may have represented the first introduction. The two largest extant trees – at Nymans in Sussex and Castlewellan in Northern Ireland – were both planted in the 1890s. This species is easily recognised by its deeply and sharply toothed leaves, which are also larger than in any other cultivated evergreen species, except N. moorei. The old leaves turn red before falling.
The following measurements suggest that N. fusca could be safely planted in all except the coldest and driest parts of the country: Grayswood Hill, Haslemere, Surrey, 40 × 4 ft (1968); Wakehurst Place, Sussex, 75 × 53⁄4 ft (1965); Nymans, Sussex, 70 × 7 ft (1966); Exbury, Hants, 68 × 51⁄2 ft (1968); Garnons, Heref., pl. 1941, 48 × 23⁄4 ft (1969); Caerhays, Cornwall, pl. 1920, 60 × 51⁄2 ft (1971); Trewithen, Cornwall, 62 × 51⁄4 ft (1971); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, pl. 1927, 28 × 11⁄2 ft, and another, pl. 1938, 36 × 11⁄4 ft (1967); Castlewellan, Co. Down, N. Ireland, 53 × 8 ft (1966); Rowallane, Co. Down, 40 × 51⁄4 ft at 2 ft (1966); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 56 × 51⁄4 ft (1966).
N. truncata (Col.) Ckn. F. truncata Col.; F. fusca var. colensoi Hook. f. – This species, which is probably not in cultivation, is closely allied to N. fusca, differing in the more leathery leaves with eight to twelve pairs of teeth, which are shallower and blunter than in its relative. It is a native of the North Island of New Zealand mainly, but also occurs in South Island as far south as 42° 30′ S.
In the wild, N. fusca and N. truncata cross with N. solandri and its var. cliffortioides, giving rise to hybrid swarms which in some places make up a substantial part of the forest or may even dominate. N. blairii (Kirk) Ckn. is now considered to be part of such a swarm, with the parentage N. fusca crossed with N. solandri var. cliffortioides. In its typical form this hybrid resembles the second parent in its entire leaves tomentose beneath, but they are larger, apiculate at the apex and the indumentum of the lower surface is rust-coloured. N. apiculata (Col.) Krasser, which, like N. blairii, was recognised as a species by Cheeseman in his Manual, is also now considered to be of hybrid origin, the parents being N. truncata and N. solandri.
specimens: Wakehurst Place, Sussex, the tree mentioned is dead, the largest now 72 × 41⁄4 ft (1986); Nymans, Sussex, 94 × 93⁄4 ft (1985); Grayswood Hill, Haslemere, Surrey, 69 × 53⁄4 ft (1982); Exbury, Hants, 68 × 51⁄2 ft (1968); Trelissick, Cornwall, 75 × 41⁄2 ft (1979); Tregrehan, Cornwall, 75 × 33⁄4 ft (1979); Castlewellan, Co. Down, 72 × 83⁄4 ft (1976); Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 70 × 61⁄2 ft (1975).