As it grows, the horoeka tree transforms through very different leaf shapes and forms. Its first leaves are brown andsplotchy, then they develop stiff narrow leaves with jagged edges. After reaching about two metres high, they transformagain into a mop of broad green leaves on top of a thin, more sturdy trunk that blends into the forest canopy.
One theory for these transformations is that the distinctive jagged leaves of the juvenile plant may have deterredbrowsing moa.
The tough leathery leaves have been used as a substitute for bootlaces, bridles, and paintbrushes.
The thin flexible trunks were useful as spears and walking sticks.