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It is a small tree or shrub, up to 8 meters tall and 15 cm in diameter. The trunk is cylindrical with greyish-brown bark, fairly smooth but with some bumps and irregularities. Branchlets appear thick, reddish or green. The leaves are triangular, not toothed and alternate, 5 to 15 cm long, and like those of a poplar (giving rise to the species epithet populifolius). The leaves turn red when senescent, hence the common name of bleeding heart. Flowers are yellow green to red, 2 to 10 cm long. Appearing on racemes mostly in the months of September to December. The fruit matures from December to March, being a two-lobed capsule with an oily yellow aril. The seeds germinate quickly when the warmth of direct sunlight is available. However, as with many pioneer species, the seeds of the bleeding heart have a long dormancy period.
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