An evergreen tree 40 to 50 ft high in the wild state; very dense in habit; young shoots green, quite glabrous. Leaves linear, 1⁄2 to 11⁄8 in. long, 1⁄16 to 1⁄8 in. wide, tapered to a short stalk bluntish or abruptly pointed at the apex; dark green above, with a dull glaucous strip each side the midrib beneath; they are densely and spirally set on the shoot (ten to fifteen to the inch), falling the third year. Male flowers in axillary and terminal panicles about 1 in. long. Fruits yellowish white, plum-like, 3⁄4 in. long, consisting of a stone surrounded by a thin layer of flesh which is edible and tastes, according to Comber, like the Sweetwater grape. The seed has no resinous odour and was eaten by the Indians.
Native of the Chilean Andes, where it is now very rare; also of Argentina, where one stand near the Chilean frontier was discovered recently. It was introduced to Britain in 1860 by the Veitchian collector Richard Pearce from the Andes east of Chillan around 36° 40’ S., but whether it still occurs so far north it is impossible to say. Comber reintroduced it in 1926 from a remote valley on the frontier near Regolil, N.E. of Villarica (c. 39° S.), and the one known Argentine stand is in the same locality. Its southern limit is said to be around 400 S.
P. andinus needs a sheltered spot, especially one shielded from north and east winds, and in such a position will be found quite hardy in most gardens. It thrives in any good soil, including chalky ones. It is propagated by cuttings of late summer wood, taken with a heel.
Although rather slow-growing, P. andinus has attained in cultivation a size probably not equalled by any existing wild tree. A specimen at Bicton in Devon measures 71 × 41⁄4 ft (1968) and there is one of 62 × 4 ft at Tregrehan in Cornwall. But most of the largest trees measured by Alan Mitchell are in the size-range 35 to 50 ft in height and 21⁄2 to 41⁄2 ft in girth, and some are large shrubs rather than trees, being many-branched from near the base. The example at Kew measures 36 × 33⁄4 ft (1965).
P. andinus, like many podocarps, appears to be normally dioecious, so fruit cannot be expected unless trees of both sexes are grown. But some trees may bear both male and female flowers.