A prostrate shrub with long, slender branches, sometimes scrambling up into its taller neighbours. Leaves of adult plants minute, appressed, keeled (but narrowly awl-shaped or needle-like in the juvenile stage). Male and female inflorescences often borne on the same plant. Seed solitary, terminal, erect, [1/8] in. or slightly more long, circular in cross-section, with a hooked process at the tip.
Native of New Zealand at high altitudes. According to L. J. Metcalf there are two forms in the wild: one has glaucous foliage becoming green or brownish in winter; the other is green in summer, plum-coloured in winter (Cult. N.Z. Tr. & Shr., pp. 92-3). It is cultivated in Britain in a few collections and is said to be hardy but not drought-resistant.
This species is removed by C. J. Quinn (op. cit. supra) into the genus Lepidothamnus, which has seeds as described above and so differing from Dacrydium proper, in which the seeds are flattened, held obliquely and terminated by a short, blunt tip. A further difference is that in D. laxifolium and its allies the leaves lack a resin duct.
The genus Lepidothamnus is not new, having been founded well over a century ago on the following species:
D. fonckii (Phil.) Benth. & Hook.f. Lepidothamnus fonckii Phil. (as L. fonki, an orthographic error) – A shrublet with erect, whipcord branchlets, said to grow no more than 1 ft or so high. Leaves appressed, closely imbricated, keeled at the back, with blunt, incurved tips. Seeds as in D. laxifolium. A native of the coastal area of Chile, mostly below 42° S., where it is often associated with Libocedrus uvifera (Pilgerodendron uviferum). It is said to be common in the Chonos Archipelago (c. 45° S.). It may not be in cultivation in Britain.
Quinn also transfers to Lepidothamnus the New Zealand species D. intermedium, which is a tree to about 50 ft high.