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An evergreen shrub up to 4 ft high, with quite glabrous, often purplish red young shoots. Leaves closely set on the branches, of thick, leathery texture, stalkless, oblong or oval, rounded at the apex and base, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long. Racemes slenderly cylindrical, produced in June and July from the leaf-axils towards the tips of the branches, 2 to 4 in. long, 1⁄3 to 5⁄8 in. wide; the main-stalk downy, naked at the base for about an inch. Flowers white or purplish, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. wide; corolla spreading, four-lobed, the lobes rounded at the end; calyx deeply four-lobed, the lobes blunt, with the margins edged with down and often purplish; flower-stalks downy. Capsules egg-shaped, slightly downy.
According to Cockayne and Allan the cultivated plants all derive from the type collection (by H. J. Matthews in the Humboldt Mountains of South Island) and they doubted whether H. matthewsii was a good species. It is, however, retained in Flora of New Zealand (vol. 1, p. 920). Although not common in commerce, it is one of the most handsome of the hardy species, being of neat habit and bearing racemes unusually long in proportion to the size of the plant.