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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.