about 97–107 species, see list
Podocarpus (/ˌpoʊdəˈkɑːrpəs/) is a genus of conifers, the
most numerous and widely distributed of the podocarp family,
Podocarpus are evergreen shrubs or trees, usually from
1 to 25 metres (3 to 82 ft) tall, known to reach 40 metres
(130 ft) at times. The cones have two to five fused cone scales
which form a fleshy, berry-like, brightly coloured receptacle at
maturity. The fleshy cones attract birds which then eat the cones and
disperse the seeds in their droppings. There are approximately 97 to
107 species in the genus depending on the circumscription of the
1 Names and etymology
5 Allergenic potential
8 Further reading
Names and etymology
Podocarpus is derived from the Greek, podos, meaning "foot",
and karpos, meaning "fruit". Common names for various species
include "yellowwood" as well as "pine", as in the plum pine
Podocarpus elatus) or the Buddhist pine (Podocarpus
Podocarpus are evergreen woody plants. They are generally trees but
may also be shrubs. The trees can reach a height of 40 meters at
their tallest. Some shrubby species have a decumbent growth habit.
The primary branches form pseudo-whorls around the trunk. The bark can
be scaly or fibrous and peeling with vertical strips. Terminal buds
are distinctive with bud scales that are often imbricate and can be
The leaves are simple, flattened and may be sessile or short
petiolate. The phyllotaxis or leaf arrangement is spiral and may be
subopposite on some shoots. The leaves are usually
linear-lanceolate or linear-elliptic in shape, though they can be
broader lanceolate, ovate or nearly elliptic in some species.
Juvenile leaves are often larger than adult leaves though similar in
shape. The leaves are coriaceous and have a distinct midrib. The
stomata are usually restricted to the abaxial or underside of the
leaf, forming two stomatal bands around the midrib.
Podocarpus are generally dioecious, with the male pollen cones and
female seed cones borne on separate individual plants but some species
may be monoecious. The cones develop from axillary buds and may be
solitary or form clusters.
The pollen cones are long and catkin-like in shape. They may be
sessile or short pedunculate. A pollen cone consists of a slender
rachis with numerous spirally arranged microsporophylls around it.
Each triangular microsporophyll has two basal pollen producing pollen
sacs. The pollen is bisaccate.
The seed cones are highly modified with the few cone scales swelling
and fusing at maturity. The cones are pedunculate and often solitary.
The seed cone consists of two to five cone scales of which only the
uppermost one or rarely two nearest the apex of the cone are fertile.
Each fertile scale usually has one apical ovule. The infertile basal
scales fuse and swell to form a succulent, usually brightly colored
receptacle. Each cone generally has only one seed but may have two or
rarely more. The seed is attached to the apex of the receptacle. The
seed is entirely covered by a fleshy modified scale known as an
epimatium. The epimatium is usually green but may be bluish or reddish
in some species.
Leaves of P. henkelii.
Male cones of P. macrophyllus grow in clusters.
A seed cone of P. totara showing a red receptacle and a green
A seedling of P. elatus.
The natural distribution of the genus consists of much of Africa,
Asia, Australia, Central and
South America and several South Pacific
islands. The genus occurs from southern
Chile north to
Mexico in the
Americas and from
New Zealand north to
Japan in the Asia-Pacific
Podocarpus and the
Podocarpaceae were endemic to the ancient
supercontinent of Gondwana, which broke up into Africa, South America,
India, Australia-New Guinea, New Zealand, and
New Caledonia between
105 and 45 million years ago.
Podocarpus is a characteristic tree of
the Antarctic flora, which originated in the cool, moist climate of
southern Gondwana, and elements of the flora survive in the humid
temperate regions of the former supercontinent. As the continents
drifted north and became drier and hotter, Podocarps and other members
Antarctic flora generally retreated to humid regions,
especially in Australia, where sclerophyll genera like
Eucalyptus became predominant. The flora of Malesia, which includes
the Malay peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, is
generally derived from Asia, but includes many elements of the old
Gondwana flora, including several other genera in the Podocarpaceae
(Dacrycarpus, Dacrydium, Falcatifolium, Nageia, Phyllocladus, and the
Malesian endemic Sundacarpus), and also
Agathis in the Araucariaceae.
Podocarpus macrophyllus with mature seed cones
There are two subgenera, subgenus
Podocarpus and subgenus Foliolatus,
distinguished by cone and seed morphology.
In Podocarpus, the cone is not subtended by lanceolate bracts, and the
seed usually has an apical ridge. Species are distributed in the
temperate forests of Tasmania, New Zealand, and southern Chile, with a
few occurring in the tropical highlands of
Africa and the Americas.
In Foliolatus, the cone is subtended by two lanceolate bracts
("foliola"), and the seed usually lacks an apical ridge. The species
are tropical and subtropical, concentrated in eastern and southeastern
Asia and Malesia, overlapping with subgenus
Podocarpus in northeastern
Australia and New Caledonia.
Species in family
Podocarpaceae have been reshuffled a number of times
based on genetic and physiological evidence, with many species
formerly assigned to genus
Podocarpus now assigned to other genera. A
sequence of classification schemes have moved species between Nageia
and Podocarpus, and in 1969 de Laubenfels divided the huge genus
Podocarpus into Dacrycarpus, Decussocarpus (an invalid name he later
revised to the valid Nageia), Prumnopitys, and Podocarpus.
Some species of genus
Afrocarpus were formerly in Podocarpus, such as
Podocarpus (eastern and southern Africa)
section Scytopodium (Madagascar, eastern Africa)
section Australis (southeast Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia,
section Crassiformis (northeast Queensland)
section Capitulatis (central Chile, southern Brazil, the
Argentina to Ecuador)
section Pratensis (southeast
Guyana and Peru)
section Lanceolatis (southern Mexico, Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles,
Venezuela to highland Bolivia)
section Pumilis (southern
Caribbean islands and
section Nemoralis (central and northern South America, south to
section Foliolatus (
Nepal to Sumatra, Philippines, and
New Guinea to
section Acuminatus (northern Queensland, New Guinea, New Britain,
section Globulus (
Taiwan to Vietnam,
Sumatra and Borneo, and New
section Longifoliolatus (
Sumatra and Borneo, East to Fiji)
section Gracilis (southern China, across
Malesia to Fiji)
section Macrostachyus (Southeast
Asia to New Guinea)
section Rumphius (Hainan, south through
Malesia to northern
Podocarpus grayae (aka P. grayii and P. grayi)
section Polystachyus (southern
China and Japan, through Malaya to New
Guinea and northeast Australia)
section Spinulosus (Southeast and southwest coasts of Australia)
Podocarpus are extremely allergenic, and have an OPALS allergy
scale rating of 10 out of 10. Conversely, completely female Podocarpus
plants have an OPALS rating of 1, and are considered
"allergy-fighting", as they capture pollen while producing none.
Podocarpus are related to yews, and, as with yews, the stems, leaves,
flowers, and pollen of
Podocarpus are all poisonous. Additionally, the
leaves, stems, bark, and pollen are cytotoxic. The male Podocarpus
blooms and releases this cytotoxic pollen in the spring and early
summer. Heavy exposure to the pollen, such as with a male Podocarpus
planted near a bedroom window, can produce symptoms that mimic the
cytotoxic side effects of chemotherapy.
Several species of
Podocarpus are grown as garden trees, or trained
into hedges, espaliers, or screens. Common garden species used for
their attractive deep green foliage and neat habits include P.
macrophyllus, known commonly as Buddhist pine, fern pine, or kusamaki,
P. salignus from Chile, and P. nivalis, a smaller, red-fruited shrub.
Some members of the genera Nageia,
marketed under the genus name Podocarpus.
The red, purple or bluish fleshy fruit of most species of Podocarpus
are edible, raw or cooked into jams or pies. They have a mucilaginous
texture with a slightly sweet flavor. However, they are slightly toxic
and should be eaten only in small amounts, especially when raw.
Tolerates drought, deer, disease, seaside
Some species of
Podocarpus are used in systems of traditional medicine
for conditions such as fevers, coughs, arthritis, sexually transmitted
diseases, and canine distemper.
A chemotherapy drug used in treatment of leukemia is made from
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Farjon, Aljos (2010). A Handbook of the
World's Conifers. Leiden: Brill. pp. 795–796.
^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
^ a b c d Earle, Chris J.: Podocarpus. The Gymnosperm Database. 2013.
^ Ornelas, J. F.; et al. (2010). "Phylogeography of
(Podocarpaceae): pre-Quaternary relicts in northern Mesoamerican cloud
forests" (PDF). Journal of Biogeography. 37: 2384–96.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2010.02372.x. CS1 maint: Explicit use of
et al. (link)
^ Barker, N. P., et al. (2004). A yellowwood by any other name:
molecular systematics and the taxonomy of
Podocarpus and the
Podocarpaceae in southern Africa. South African Journal of Science
100(11 & 12), 629-32.
^ Earle, Chris J.:
Podocarpus elatus. The Gymnosperm Database. 2013.
^ Earle, Chris J.:
Podocarpus macrophyllus. The Gymnosperm Database.
^ a b c d "Podocarpus". eFloras: Flora of China. Missouri Botanical
Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge,
MA. 1999. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
^ a b c Ogren, Thomas (2015). The Allergy-Fighting Garden. Berkeley,
CA: Ten Speed Press. pp. 171–172.
^ Data sheet -
^ Abdillahi, H. S.; et al. (2011). "Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant,
anti-tyrosinase and phenolic contents of four
Podocarpus species used
in traditional medicine in South Africa". Journal of
Ethnopharmacology. 136 (3): 496–503. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2010.07.019.
PMID 20633623. CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link)
de Laubenfels, D. J. (1985). A taxonomic revision of the genus
Podocarpus. Blumea 30(2), 251-78.
Farjon, A. World Checklist and Bibliography of Conifers 2nd Edition.
Kew, Richmond, UK. 2001. ISBN 978-1-84246-025-2