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An evergreen tree up to 100 (sometimes more) ft high, with a trunk 2 to 5 ft in diameter. When young, and as we know it in this country, it is of thinly furnished, slender habit, with long, thin, quite pendulous branches, but it is described as forming a comparatively round-topped head at maturity. The dark brown bark is shed in large flakes. Leaves of young trees awl-shaped, 1⁄6 to 1⁄4 in. long, densely arranged all round the branchlets forty or more to the inch, their overlapping bases completely covering the stem. On old trees the leaves become much smaller, 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long, blunter pointed and more appressed to the stem. The trees are unisexual and on female ones the flowers are borne singly at the recurved tips of the twigs, eventually developing an egg-shaped seed about 1⁄8 in. long, set in a cup-shaped, often (but not always) fleshy receptacle.
Native of both islands of New Zealand up to 2,500 ft altitude and known there as the ‘Rimu’ or ‘red pine’; discovered during Capt. Cook’s first expedition about 1770. Its timber is much used for furniture and house-building. It is one of the fine trees of the Dominion, and Cheeseman records that Sir David Hutchinson found two trees in the Westland forests that were 198 ft and 168 ft high respectively. As a young tree it is very distinct and graceful, its pale green branchlets (with the leaves) 1⁄4 in. or so in diameter hanging undivided 1 to 2 ft in length. It is only hardy in the milder counties and even there does not really thrive. The best specimen recorded is one of 20 ft on Garinish Island (Illnacullin), Eire.
This is the type-species of the genus, described by Lambert in 1806.
There are two examples of this species at Illnacullin (Garinish Island) in County Cork: one, pl. 1935, 30 ft high and the other, pl. 1954, 23 ft high (The Garden (Journ. R.H.S.), Vol. 101, p. 162 (1976)). Smaller examples, about 15 ft high, grow at Trengwainton, Cornwall, and at Mount Usher, Co. Wicklow, Eire (1979).