Lancewood is a native of New Zealand eventually growing to 15m height in lowland and lower montain forests. It is a plant with a dramatic difference between the juvenile form and the adult form. Several of our UK native plants show some differences in the juvenile state, such a ivy (Hedera helix) which has toothed juvenile leaves and entire adult leaves and beech (Fagus sylvatica) in which the juvenile leaves persist on the tree whereas the adult leaves are shed in the Autumn. The juvenile form of the lancewood has tough leathery leaves up to 1m long that point down, while the adult form has much shorter leaves in bunches on the branches (see photos below).
It has been suggested that the strange looking juvenile form may have evolved as a protection from predation by the now extinct flightless moa bird. Once the tree was more than about 2m high it would have been safe from attack.
|Pseudopanax crassulifolius in Belfast Botanic Gardens||Juvenile form of Pseudopanax crassulifolius - see source reference below|
|Adult foliage of Pseudopanax crassulifolius||Flower umbel of Pseudopanax crassulifolius|