Podocarpus macrophyllus / yew podocarp

Podocarpus marcrophyllus, as described in 1824 by (Thunberg) David Don (1799 - 1841), in A Description of the Genus Pinus vol.2, no.22, is commonly known as yew podocarp, southern yew, longleaf podocarp, and Buddhist pine; but note that it is NOT a pine but a distinct genus, the second-largest after Pinus with 97 species

In local languages this species is known as クサマキ (kusamaki), and 犬槇 (inumaki) in the Japanese language; and 羅漢松 (luo han song) in Chinese. The species name, from the Greek language, describes this species' exceptionally large foliage, particularly in juvenile plants.

Description. Yew podocarp is an evergreen, coniferous species of tree or large shrub that grows to mature heights of 65 feet (20 m) tall with a trunk up to 24 inches (60 cm) in diameter, measured at breast height.

  • Crown is conical in young plants, with age becoming narrowly cylindrical or irregularly open and dome-shaped.
  • Bark is smooth, grayish brown in color, flaking in scales and becoming shallowly furrowed with age.
  • Foliar buds are obovoid shaped, measuring 0.08 to 0.12 inch (2 - 3 mm) long and 0.06 to 0.08 inch (1.5 - 2 mm) in diameter, and consist of upright, triangular bud scales with narrow tips.
  • Leaves point outward and somewhat forward all around the stems and are often denser near the tips. The needles have leathery consistency, lasting 2 to 3 years before being shed. They are shiny dark-green in color with yellowish undersides. Individual needles measure 1.2 to 4 inches (3 - 10 cm) long and 0.16 to 0.4 inch (4 - 10 mm) wide, growing straight or curved to one side.
  • Pollen cones measure 0.8 to 1.6 inches (2 - 4 cm) long and 0.12 to 0.14 inch (3 - 3.5 mm) wide, borne on very short, leafless peduncles measuring 0.2 to 0.4 inch (5 - 10 mm) long.
  • Seed cones are borne on short, leafless peduncles measuring 0.2 to 0.4 inch (5 - 10 mm) long. Individual cones number one or two per cluster. They consist of seat coat and leathery epimatium covering a hard inner shell. Immature cones are colored greenish blue to purplish black, with a thin, waxy coating; and measure 0.32 to 0.48 inch (8 - 12 mm) and 0.24 to 0.32 inch (6 - 9 mm) wide.

Distribution. This species is native to the highlands of China, Japan and the Philippines, where it can be found growing at elevations from 1,202 to 1.450 feet (310 - 440 m) above sea level.

Hardy to USDA Zone 7 (10 to 0ºF / -12.2 to -17.8ºC). It's best grown in rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerant of shade (often seen indoors in large tubs in shopping malls) but intolerant of wet.

Podocarpus is very popular as a dense screen or hedge if planted closely but can also be used as an ornamental with lower branches removed to reveal the light brown, peeling bark. As it matures the tree grows in an open manner with large spaces between the branches creating a pleasing, irregular oval silhouette in middle and old age.

Because its root system is quite forgiving and its narrow form it has potential as a street tree in urban environments in the southeastern United States.

Attribution from: James E. Eckenwalder; Conifers of the World; ©2009 Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Podocarpus macrophyllus, in Gainesville, Florida; photo from 2008.
Photo by Univ. of FL Extension
Podocarpus macrophyllus — a young specimen at Four Arts Botanical Gardens Palm Beach, Florida; photo from May 2020.
Photo by Katherine Wagner-Reiss
Podocarpus macrophyllus — a closeup of foliage and ovule-bearing branches. SIUC greenhouse.
Photo by Dan Nickrent
Podocarpus macrophyllus — courtesy of Sandra McLean Cutler, author of Dwarf & Unusual Conifers Coming of Age.
Photo by Sandra McLean Cutler
Podocarpus macrophyllus — foliage with mature seed cones.
Photo by Koppchen via Wikipedia
Podocarpus macrophyllus at Krohn Conservatory, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Photo by Greg Hume via Wikipedia