Puka is a small, spreading glossy-leaved tree which grows quickly to four metres within ten years up to a maximum of eight metres. Growing naturally on off-shore northern islands (Three Kings, Hen & Chicks) this hardy upright specimen tolerates wind and salt as well as occasional drought but is frost-tender.
The robust rich green, veined and leathery, leaves are the largest entire leaf found on any New Zealand native (25-50cm long). The trunk grows straight and the base becomes wooden as it matures while the top remains soft. Once Puka flowers, the crown begins branching into a rounded form which can expand outwards to a lush eight metres.
Meryta Sinclairii is dioecious and inflorescences (entire flower head including stems, stalks, bracts and flowers) generally form at branch tips. Tiny green flowers appear from August to April. On female plants only, 1cm shiny green fruits composed of 3-6 seed holding cells follow. They ripen to black over the course of a year, attracting birds.
Puka will grow in a wide range of soil types and shade options but will thrive in a sunny location with some shade in deep moisture-holding soil. Young plants need initial protection in exposed coastal situations.
Puka is sometimes confused with Akapuka (Griselinia lucida) which looks similar with broad leaves.