Thursday, December 9, 2010

Podocarpus henkelli (Henkels yellowwood)

There can be no lovelier choice for a Christmas tree than our own elegant Podocarpus henkelii. The distinctive pyramid shape and the beautiful dense, glossy green leaves makes this one of our most decorative conifers. Although it grows extremely high and wide in nature, it is considerably lower and narrower in cultivation. Henkel’s yellowwood, a protected species, is named after Dr. J. S. Henkel who worked in forestry conservation in South Africa and determined that this species is separate from Podocarpus latifolius. This is the nesting tree of choice for the Cape parrot and the seeds are a popular source of food for these attractive birds as well as a variety of other birds.
Botanical Name
Podocarpus henkelii
Common Name
Henkel’s yellowwood
RSA National Tree No’
The evergreen Podocarpus henkelii is undoubtedly one of our loveliest indigenous specimen trees and is the preferred yellowwood for the garden. Where space is limited near entries and in courtyards, it performs admirably. By planting a single specimen near a door or several along a wall, the striking shape of this handsome tree can be fully appreciated. These versatile trees do extremely well in large containers and can even be seen along the pavements of Hong Kong planted in this way. Henkel’s yellowwood looks lovely when planted as an informal screen or hedge or as a more formal avenue along a drive or walkway.  
Growth Habit
Podocarpus henkelii is usually found in moist afromontane forest in the sub tropics as well as low lying areas in temperate regions of the southern hemisphere.
The bark is dark grey to pale brownish grey and is longitudinally fissured. Some older trees may be found with the bark peeling off in large pieces, exposing the red brown under surface.
The lovely long, slender, drooping and glossy dark green leaves are held horizontally. They are approximately 60mm x 10mm with lamina tapering from about the middle of the apex.

Henkel’s yellowwood is a gymnosperm and does not produce flowers.
Male and female trees are separate. Male cones are 2-3cm long and are either borne separately or in clusters of up to 5. The female cones are not well developed, they are solitary and are borne on short stalks.
The seeds are round, approximately 25mm in diameter and are olive green.
Growing regions
The beautiful Podocarpus henkelii grows naturally from the Eastern Cape right through to KwaZulu- Natal as well as into the northern KwaZulu- Natal Drakensberg.
Growing conditions
This lovely tree prefers moist conditions and does extremely well when planted in full sun in deep sandy soil, which is kept well mulched and watered.
Best season
 All year
Henkel’s yellowwood is moderately drought resistant and frost hardy.
Podocarpus henkelii is propagated by seed but this can be quite tricky. Place seeds in moist sand and keep constantly warm and moist. Germination takes about 2 months.
Growth rate
 Average to slow depending on growing conditions.
The elegant Podocarpus henkelii has the most beautiful timber of excellent colour and quality which has long been used for fine furniture and smaller wooden household items. The timber is not as widely used as that of the other yellowwood species however, as there is only a limited supply available.

                P. henkelli Leaves                  P. henkelii Cones                   P. henkelii Fruit

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