World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000940304
Reproduction Date:

Title: Podocarpus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Podocarpaceae, Natural history of Mount Kenya, Podocarpus drouynianus, Podocarpus nubigenus, Podocarpus totara
Collection: Podocarpaceae Genera, Podocarpus
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Podocarpus neriifolius
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Podocarpaceae
Genus: Podocarpus
Type species
Podocarpus elongatus

about 104-107 species, see list

Podocarpus (;[1] from the Greek, podos, meaning "foot", and karpos, meaning "fruit") is a genus of conifers, the most numerous and widely distributed of the podocarp family, Podocarpaceae. Podocarpus are evergreen shrubs or trees usually from 1 to 25 meters tall, known to reach 40 meters at times. The leaves are 0.5 to 15 cm long, lanceolate to oblong or falcate (sickle-shaped) in some species, with a distinct midrib. They are arranged spirally, though in some species twisted to appear in two horizontal ranks. The cones have two to five fused scales, of which only one, rarely two, are fertile, each fertile scale has one apical seed. At maturity, the scales become berry-like, swollen, brightly coloured red to purple and fleshy, and are eaten by birds which then disperse the seeds in their droppings. The male (pollen) cones are 5 to 20 mm long, often clustered several together. Many species, though not all, are dioecious. There are approximately 104 to 107 species in the genus.[2][3][4]

Podocarpus macrophyllus with mature seed cones

Podocarpus and the Podocarpaceae were endemic to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana,[5] 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 of the Antarctic flora generally retreated to humid regions, especially in Australia, where sclerophyll genera like Acacia and 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.


  • Classification 1
  • Allergenic potential 2
  • Uses 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


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 Afrocarpus gracilior.


Allergenic potential

Male 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.[6]

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.[6]


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, Prumnopitys and Afrocarpus are 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[7]

Some species of Podocarpus are used in systems of traditional medicine for conditions such as fevers, coughs, arthritis, sexually transmitted diseases, and canine distemper.[8]

A chemotherapy drug used in treatment of leukemia is made from Podocarpus.[6]


  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ .Podocarpus The Gymnosperm Database. 2013.
  3. ^ Ornelas, J. F., et al. (2010). (Podocarpaceae): pre-Quaternary relicts in northern Mesoamerican cloud forests.Podocarpus matudaePhylogeography of Journal of Biogeography 37, 2384-96.
  4. ^ Barker, N. P., et al. (2004). and the Podocarpaceae in southern Africa.PodocarpusA yellowwood by any other name: molecular systematics and the taxonomy of South African Journal of Science 100(11 & 12), 629-32.
  5. ^ Specht, R.L.; Montenegro, G.; Dettmann, M.E. (2015), "Structure and Alpha Biodiversity of Major Plant Communities in Chile, a Distant Gondwanan Relation of Australia", Journal of Environment and Ecology 6 (1): 21–47 
  6. ^ a b c Ogren, Thomas (2015). The Allergy-Fighting Garden. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press. p. 171-172.  
  7. ^ Data sheet - Podocarpus [2]
  8. ^ Abdillahi, H. S., et al. (2011). species used in traditional medicine in South Africa.PodocarpusAnti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tyrosinase and phenolic contents of four Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136(3), 496-503.

Further reading

  • 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
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.