about 104-107 species, see list
Podocarpus (//; from the Greek, podos, meaning "foot", and karpos, meaning "fruit") is a genus of conifers, the most numerous and widely distributed of the podocarp family, Podocarpaceae. Podocarpus are evergreen shrubs or trees usually from 1 to 25 meters tall, known to reach 40 meters at times. The leaves are 0.5 to 15 cm long, lanceolate to oblong or falcate (sickle-shaped) in some species, with a distinct midrib. They are arranged spirally, though in some species twisted to appear in two horizontal ranks. The cones have two to five fused scales, of which only one, rarely two, are fertile, each fertile scale has one apical seed. At maturity, the scales become berry-like, swollen, brightly coloured red to purple and fleshy, and are eaten by birds which then disperse the seeds in their droppings. The male (pollen) cones are 5 to 20 mm long, often clustered several together. Many species, though not all, are dioecious. There are approximately 104 to 107 species in the genus.
Podocarpus and the Podocarpaceae were endemic to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which broke up into Africa, South America, India, Australia-New Guinea, New Zealand, and New Caledonia between 105 and 45 million years ago. Podocarpus is a characteristic tree of the Antarctic flora, which originated in the cool, moist climate of southern Gondwana, and elements of the flora survive in the humid temperate regions of the former supercontinent. As the continents drifted north and became drier and hotter, Podocarps and other members of the Antarctic flora generally retreated to humid regions, especially in Australia, where sclerophyll genera like Acacia and Eucalyptus became predominant, and the old Antarctic flora retreated to pockets that presently cover only 2% of the continent. As Australia drifted north toward Asia, the collision pushed up the Indonesian archipelago and the mountains of New Guinea, which allowed podocarp species to hop across the narrow straits into humid Asia, with P. macrophyllus reaching north to southern China and Japan. The flora of Malesia, which includes the Malay peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, is generally derived from Asia but includes many elements of the old Gondwana flora, including several other genera in the Podocarpaceae (Dacrycarpus, Dacrydium, Falcatifolium, Nageia, Phyllocladus, and the Malesian endemic Sundacarpus), and also Agathis in the Araucariaceae.
There are two subgenera, subgenus Podocarpus and subgenus Foliolatus, distinguished by cone and seed morphology.
In Podocarpus, the cone is not subtended by lanceolate bracts, and the seed usually has an apical ridge. Species are distributed in the temperate forests of Tasmania, New Zealand, and southern Chile, with a few occurring in the tropical highlands of Africa and the Americas.
In Foliolatus, the cone is subtended by two lanceolate bracts ("foliola"), and the seed usually lacks an apical ridge. The species are tropical and subtropical, concentrated in eastern and southeastern Asia and Malesia, overlapping with subgenus Podocarpus in northeastern Australia and New Caledonia.
Species in family Podocarpaceae have been reshuffled a number of times based on genetic and physiological evidence, with many species formerly assigned to genus Podocarpus now assigned to other genera. A sequence of classification schemes have moved species between Nageia and Podocarpus, and in 1969 de Laubenfels divided the huge genus Podocarpus into Dacrycarpus, Decussocarpus (an invalid name he later revised to the valid Nageia), Prumnopitys, and Podocarpus.
- Subgenus Podocarpus
- section Podocarpus (eastern and southern Africa)
- section Scytopodium (Madagascar, eastern Africa)
- section Australis (southeast Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, southern Chile)
- section Crassiformis (northeast Queensland)
- section Capitulatis (central Chile, southern Brazil, the Andes from northern Argentina to Ecuador)
- section Pratensis (southeast Mexico to Guyana and Peru)
- section Lanceolatis (southern Mexico, Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles, Venezuela to highland Bolivia)
- section Pumilis (southern Caribbean islands and Guyana highlands)
- section Nemoralis (central and northern South America, south to Bolivia)
- Subgenus Foliolatus
- section Foliolatus (Nepal to Sumatra, Philippines, and New Guinea to Tonga)
- section Acuminatus (northern Queensland, New Guinea, New Britain, Borneo)
- section Globulus (Taiwan to Vietnam, Sumatra and Borneo, and New Caledonia)
- section Longifoliolatus (Sumatra and Borneo, East to Fiji)
- section Gracilis (southern China, across Malesia to Fiji)
- section Macrostachyus (Southeast Asia to New Guinea)
- section Rumphius (Hainan, south through Malesia to northern Queensland)
- section Polystachyus (southern China and Japan, through Malaya to New Guinea and northeast Australia)
- section Spinulosus (Southeast and southwest coasts of Australia)
Several species of Podocarpus are grown as garden trees, or trained into hedges, espaliers, or screens. Common garden species used for their attractive deep green foliage and neat habits include P. macrophyllus, known commonly as Buddhist pine, fern pine, or kusamaki, P. salignus from Chile, and P. nivalis, a smaller, red-fruited shrub. Some members of the genera Nageia, Prumnopitys and Afrocarpus are marketed under the genus name Podocarpus.
The red, purple or bluish fleshy fruit of most species of Podocarpus are edible, raw or cooked into jams or pies. They have a mucilaginous texture with a slightly sweet flavor. However, they are slightly toxic and should be eaten only in small amounts, especially when raw.
- Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
- Podocarpus. The Gymnosperm Database. 2013.
- Ornelas, J. F., et al. (2010). Phylogeography of Podocarpus matudae (Podocarpaceae): pre-Quaternary relicts in northern Mesoamerican cloud forests. Journal of Biogeography 37, 2384-96.
- Barker, N. P., et al. (2004). A yellowwood by any other name: molecular systematics and the taxonomy of Podocarpus and the Podocarpaceae in southern Africa. South African Journal of Science 100(11 & 12), 629-32.
- Abdillahi, H. S., et al. (2011). Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tyrosinase and phenolic contents of four Podocarpus species used in traditional medicine in South Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136(3), 496-503.