Matai heartwood is golden yellow when freshly cut, darkening to a deep red-brown on exposure to sunlight. The sapwood is white.
The timber is similar to rimu at first glance, but has slightly more distinct growth rings, and no intermediate wood zone. Matai is also very malodorous when freshly cut.
Matai grows throughout the lowland forest areas, to an altitude of 600-700 metres. Mature matai is one of the finest native species, renowned for high yields of clear heartwood timber of excellent finishing grades.
The tree grows up to 20-25m in height with a 1.3m diameter at breast height. The sapwood is well defined, and of a minimal band.
Most of the timber is heartwood, of straight grain, easy to split with a fine uniform even texture.
Older matai found in most central North Island podocarp forests have significant incidence of internal rots and decays, therefore their selection in sustainably managed forest need to ensure only sound logs should be selected.
Matai is found widespread in flooring wood, as well as a popular carving material for wood workers and carvers.
Unlike rimu, the odour of matai when sanding is inoffensive, and is also easy to shape and work with. The grain is very tight and closed, and has some nice figure, though not as defined as that of rimu. However, it is much more consistent, especially in terms of density. The finished colour is a light tan with a slight orange/brown tinge.