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Podocarpus totara D. Don


Modern name

Podocarpus totara G.Benn. ex D.Don

A fine evergreen tree in the wild, 40 to 80 ft, sometimes 100 ft high, with a trunk 6 to 18 ft in girth, clothed with thick, furrowed, stringy bark; young shoots glabrous, furrowed. Leaves leathery, stiff, linear with a sharp hard point, quite glabrous, dull green, often tinged with brown, 12 to 114 in. long, 112 to 18 in. wide; not stalked. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Male flowers cylindrical, 12 to 34 in. long, axillary, solitary or two or three together at the top of a very short stalk. Female flowers axillary, solitary or in pairs. Fruit-stalk usually much enlarged, red, succulent, swelling out as large as a cherry and bearing one or two roundish seeds at the top.

Native of New Zealand, where it occurs throughout North Island; in South Island it is said to have its main distribution to the east of the divide, as far south as S.E. Otago; for altitudinal distribution see below. Owing to the confusion between this species and P. hallii the date of introduction is not known, but Lawson of Edinburgh was offering potted plants under the name P. totara in 1847. In New Zealand its timber is extremely valuable, being straight grained, reddish, and very durable.

Large specimens of P. totara are to be found only in the mildest parts of the British Isles, where the following examples have been measured in Cornwall: Trebah, Mawnan Smith, 53 × 812 ft (1959); Enys, nr Falmouth, 59 × 5 ft (1962); Tregrehan, Par, 56 × 514 ft (1971). In Eire there is an example measuring 30 × 434 ft at the base at Ilnacullin, Garinish Island, Co. Cork.

cv. ‘Aureus’. – Leaves golden.

P. hallii Kirk P. totara var. hallii (Kirk) Pilger; ? P. cunninghamii Col. – Very closely akin to P. totara, this tree is of smaller stature and only from 25 to 60 ft high; the bark, too, is thinner and papery and, according to Kirk, it is easily detached in large sheets. When young it is very distinct in its foliage, some of the largest leaves being 134 in. long by 14 in. wide, sharply pointed and linear-lanceolate in shape. On adult trees they become smaller, only 12 to 1 in. long and 18 in. wide, and more abruptly pointed. On young trees the leaves are mostly arranged distichously, i.e., in two opposite rows; on older ones all round the shoot. The branching of young trees is also looser and weaker. The flowers do not differ greatly from those of P. totara, and there seems to be no reliable difference between the two species in their adult leaves. But the seeds differ, those of P. totara being obtuse or rounded at the apex, while in P. hallii they are narrow-ovoid and acute at the apex. Intermediate forms are said to occur.

Native of North and South Islands and of Stewart Island. Between this species and P. totara there is considerable overlap in distribution and the two may occur together in the same forest. But, according to Cockayne, P. hallii occurs generally at higher altitudes than its relative and is sometimes found in stunted form in subalpine forest. Its timber is similar to that of P. totara, but not of such high quality.

P. acutifolius Kirk – A small erect shrub, slenderly branched, with linear leaves 58 to 1 in. long, tapered at the apex to a slender, spine-tipped point, dull green, gold-green or brownish green above, the underside paler, with two fairly distinct bands of stomata; midrib not raised on either surface. Native of the South Island of New Zealand.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

All the noteworthy specimens of this species grow in Cornwall: Trebah, 66 × 10 ft (1984); Enys, 71 × 612 ft (1977); Tregrehan, 60 × 534 ft (1979); Menabilly, 66 × 614 ft (1984); Bosahan, 47 × 614 ft and 49 × 6 ft (1985).

P. acutifolius – In the wild this species sometimes makes a small tree to about 30 ft high. A specimen at Castlewellan, Co. Down, planted as P. acutifolius and agreeing well with it, is 25-30 ft high.

P. acutifolius agrees in its essential characters with P. lawrencei of Tasmania and is included in it by de Laubenfels (see P. alpinus above).

P. hallii – The earlier name P. cunninghamii Colenso was not taken up in Allan’s Flora of New Zealand on the grounds that the description and specimen were not sufficient to justify discarding Kirk’s P. hallii. Cheeseman included P. cunninghamii in P. totara, with which it agrees better in foliage, though Colenso’s description of the bark suggests P. hallii. However, the name P. cunninghamii is used. in place of P. hallii by de Laubenfels (op. cit.).



Other species in the genus