Five-finger is named after the five leaflets composing each leaf (although one species has seven and another three). Five-finger is a fast growing colonizing tree that can grow through bracken fern and eventually create pure forest.
Young trees are tall and unbranched. Adults produce masses of black fruits that are eaten by birds. It is also the common host for a native mistletoe. Being very widespread five-finger has many Māori names, the most common being whauwhau, which relates to the large leaves. Lancewood is a related species with tough spear-shaped jagged leaves.