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A native of the Chatham Islands, where it makes, according to Cockayne, a tree 15 to 30 ft high with a close, rounded crown. Leaves rather thick, dull green, 3 to 4 in. long, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. wide, ciliate, the blades downy on one or both sides when young, sessile. Flowers white, in racemes usually shorter than the leaves. This species, Cockayne observed, is remarkable for going through a juvenile phase in which the stems are densely downy and the leaves deeply and coarsely toothed. He likened it to a gigantic form of H. salicifolia but it is quite distinct from that species in its completely sessile leaves, shorter racemes, and corollas with a tube equal in length to the calyx.
There is a picture of a tree growing in the Chatham Islands in the Kew Bulletin for 1910, taken by Captain Dorrien-Smith in December 1909. The species was introduced by him to his garden at Tresco Abbey in the Isles of Scilly at the same time. One of the original trees is about 15 ft high with a trunk 21⁄2 ft in diameter at the base.
H. barkeri (Ckn.) Ckn. V. barkeri Ckn. – The type of this species is a garden plant, and Cockayne, who first described it in 1899, later refused to recognise it as a natural species. But the type almost certainly came from the Chatham Islands and Dr Moore (Fl. N.Z., Vol. 1, p. 910) considers that this and H. gigantea are probably one and the same species, for which H. barkeri, having priority, would be the correct name.