Monday, February 16, 2009

Podocarpus latifolius (Real yellowwood)

For December, it would only be right to feature a tree which is so versatile that it is able to easily contribute to our end of year festivities, as well as the garden or landscape thereafter. The ever-popular Podocarpus latifolius, considered the ‘Real Yellowwood’ is well known for its beautiful timber and is used most commonly today to craft valuable and highly sought after furniture. Although relatively slow growing, the Yellowwood adds immense, lasting value to a landscape.

Interestingly, in South Africa the yellow woods (Podocarpus) and the cedars (Widdringtonia) are representatives of the Pinophyta (conifers).

Our 100 litre stocks of Podocarpus latifolius are large and full for their bag size and are looking very healthy. Contact Rudi or Leske to find out more.


Botanical Name: Podocarpus latifolius (Thunb.) R.Br. ex Mirb.
Common Name: Broad-leaved Yellowwood / Real Yellowwood
Genus: Podocarpaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 18


The unusual textural appearance of the leaves makes the Podocarpus a good contrast or background for other trees. The colourful receptacles of the female tree are most attractive. This tree makes for an interesting container plant and can withstand short periods indoors. The leaf size and interesting bark are good characteristics which make these trees popular for bonsai. Notably Podocarpus grows best when planted in companion with other specific tree species, such as the Wild Olive or Keurboom and this is worth consideration when specifying this species for a landscape project.


Height: Grows to between 20 and 35m in height.
Spread: 3-10m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Habit: Grows naturally in mountainous areas and forests. It is also found on rocky hillsides and mountain slopes but does not grow as tall where it is exposed as it does in the foliar protection of forests.
Bark: The bark is yellowish brown - grey and smooth when young but flakes in narrow vertical strips when mature.
Foliage: The leaves on young trees are always larger than on mature trees. The new leaves are very noticeable as they form clusters of pale green or bronze at the ends of branches compared to the dark green of the older leaves. The
leaves are strap-shaped, 25–40 mm long on mature trees, up to 100 mm long on young trees and 6–12 mm broad with a bluntly pointed tip.
Flowers: The flowers are inconspicuous and are followed by green fleshy fruits.
Fruit: There are male and female trees. The male cones (July to September) resemble catkins (an inflorescence adapted for wind pollination found on the exotic Betula species for example) while the female tree develops round grey / blue seeds on thickened fleshy stalks known as receptacles which as they mature, turn purple (December to February).
Seed: 1 or sometimes 2 seeds mature on each receptacle. Seeds are large, fleshy and oval – 1-1.5cm maturing in December-February.


Growing regions: P. latifolius is native to the moister southern and eastern areas of
South Africa, from coastal areas of the Western Cape, east to KwaZulu-Natal and north to eastern Limpopo.
Growing conditions: Occurs as a tall straight tree in high temperate forests and as a low spreading tree or shrub on exposed rocky slopes and in open coastal bush.
Best season: Spring - Autumn
Hardiness: Requires regular watering and can tolerate light frost.
Propagation: Seed should be cleaned and sown fresh in a mix of sand and compost. Do not allow seeds to dry out or germination will be poor.
Growth rate: Very slow growing but long living.


The genus and species names are derived from Greek words, podo which means foot, carpus which means fruit, lati which means wide and folius which means leaf. The P. latifolius is the national tree of South Africa. Podocarpus yield a timber of a uniform pale yellow colour, which seasons and saws well, works easily and takes a good finish. Yellowwood has been used more than any other indigenous timber and most of the beautiful floors in the fine old Cape Dutch homesteads were made of this wood. The South African Railways used to use Yellowwood to make railway sleepers.

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