A genus of about 100 evergreen trees and shrubs, with its main distribution in the warm-temperate and subtropical rain-forests of the southern hemisphere, but extending as far north as the Himalaya and Japan. Some species are important timber trees in their native countries. They are variable in their foliage, but all the main types are represented in the species described here. Male inflorescences cylindrical, catkin-like, usually in stalked or sessile axillary clusters, or solitary; or arranged in spikes (sect. Stachycarpus). The female inflorescence consists of a short axis, bearing a few scales of which only the upper one or two are fertile. The seed is much larger than the subtending scale, nut-like or drupe-like, coated by an excrescence of the carpel (epimatium). In the typical section (sect. Podocarpus) the inflorescences are borne in the leaf-axils, and the upper sterile scales become united with the stalk and develop into a fleshy, coloured receptacle on which the seed is borne; the seed is nut-like. To this group belong all the species treated, except those mentioned below. In the section Stachycarpus the female inflorescences are arranged in a spike; there is no fleshy receptacle, but the seed itself develops a more or less fleshy layer on the outside. To this section belong P. andinus, P. spicatus, and P. ferrugineus, though the last is anomalous in having usually solitary fruits. The section Nageia is distinguished mainly by its broad leaves. The female inflorescence and fruit resembles that of the typical section, though, as in P. nagi, the receptacle sometimes remains dry.
Propagation is by seed if procurable, or by cuttings taken in late summer.
The generic name comes from the Greek pous, foot, and karpos, fruit, in allusion to the fleshy receptacle mentioned above.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
The family Podocarpaceae, though in part only, was reviewed by D. J. de Laubenfels in ‘A Revision of the Malesian and Pacific Rainforest Conifers …’, Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, Vol. 50, pp. 274-369 (1969). In this paper he gives generic rank to the section Nageia, publishing for it the new generic Decussocarpus, though it is surely arguable that the proposed genus already had a name – Nageia Gaertner.
It was not mentioned in the main work that P. dacrydioides (page 280) belongs to a group – section Dacrycarpus – which is distinct from the rest of the genus in the form of its fruits. In these the bract-scale (carpidium) is as long as the seed and fused with it on one side. In the other sections the bract-scale remains small, and the outer coating of the seed is formed only by the epimatium (ovuliferous scale). The foliage too is distinct from that of most other members of the genus, resembling that of Dacrydium in the species mentioned and in others not unlike that of Cryptomeria. This section too has been raised to generic rank by de Laubenfels as Dacrycarpus.
In another Paper (Blumea, Vol. 24, pp. 189-96 (1978)) de Laubenfels proposes the resurrection of the genus Prumnopitys, which is founded on the mainly Chilean species Podocarpus andinus. The group concerned constitutes (in Podocarpus) the section or subgenus Stachycarpus, with some other species in South America and the remainder in Australasia and the south-west Pacific.
There is no doubt that the Podocarpaceae are in need of reclassification. But it seems better to leave the present arrangement as it stands until the whole family has been studied and, where necessary, regrouped according to consistent taxonomic criteria. See also Dacrydium in this supplement.
The genus Podocarpus, with the exclusions mentioned above, is revised by de Laudenfels in Blumea, Vol. 30, pp. 251-78 (1985).