Hoheria is an endemic representative of the almost cosmopolitan Mallow family. The genus has five species carrying the common name of lacebarks because of the lace-like network of the inner bark fibres. If the bark is peeled, these can readily be seen. It is a characteristic found in other members of the Mallow family, some of which yield commercial fibres from this bark layer. The New Zealand trees are also noted for their showy white flowers and handsome foliage. For these reasons, they are widely used arboriculturally. Some horticultural varieties possessing purplish and variegated leaves have been selected and are propagated. The most commonly known species is H. populnea, a smallish forest tree about 30 ft or more tall occurring in coastal to lowland forest from North Cape to about latitude 38° S. It prefers forest margins and open places. Leaves are up to 5 or 6 in. long, about elliptic and are coarsely and sharply toothed. This is the tree most commonly seen. H. sexstylosa has narrower somewhat ovate-lanceolate leaves. It occurs in much the same type of habitat as the other species but in lowland to lower montane forest, from about Auckland to the centre of the South Island. Both species vary greatly in leaf form and there is need for critical work to delineate them more accurately.
A more clear-cut lowland species is H. angustifolia which forms groves along streams from the lower half of the North Island, southwards. It has small narrow leaves under an inch long. It is seldom seen in cultivation. The other two species, H. lyallii and H. glabrata, are small mountain trees of the South Island. The former occurs east of the main divide and the latter mainly west. Both form groves along forest margins, streams, and in damp gullies. Leaves of H. lyallii are 4–5 in. long but those of H. glabrata are 6–7 in. long. Both have showy white flowers over an inch across.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.