This fast-growing, majestic yellowwood with its elegant shape is
certainly a tree for all seasons and all gardens. It is an excellent
container plant and can also be decorated and used as an indoor
The new flush of bluish-grey leaves in spring contrast beautifully
against the older, dark green, mature leaves. The plant belongs
to the Gymnospermae division of seed-bearing plants, differing from
Angiospermae by the fact that the ovules are not enclosed in carpels-they
are naked. Podocarpaceae is one of only seven Gymnosperm families
found in South Africa, and this tree is protected.
tall, evergreen tree can reach a height of 45 m in nature but luckily
never reaching that great height in garden cultivation.
The bark is interesting, being smooth and ridged on younger stems
and peeling off in flakes on the older trees.
The leaves are arranged spirally, with parallel veins and smooth
margins. The leaf tip is sharply pointed.
Male and female cones occur on different trees. The large, yellow,
fleshy fruits take a year to ripen and hang from the branches in
This tree occurs from the southern Cape, northwards to the Limpopo
and also eastwards to Mozambique.
Podos = foot, and karpos = fruit (Greek), allude to the fruits of
these trees being borne on fleshy stalks; falcatus = sickle-shaped
(Latin) alludes to the leaves.
It must be noted some schools of thought regard this particular
species as Afrocarpus falcatus. More on this topic can be
read in Leistner et al. (1995).
Ripe fruits are eaten by bats, bushpigs, fruit-eating birds (Cape
parrots, purple-crested, Knysna and Ross's louries, Rameron, African
green and Delagorgue's pigeons). The large, dense crown is often
a roosting and nesting site for various birds.
Uses and economic value
The wood is used extensively for furniture, roof beams, floorboards,
door and window frames and boat building. Some of the famous yellowwood
antiques seen throughout South Africa were made from the wood of
this specific tree. The straight stems of these trees were once
used for the topmasts of ships. The bark is used for tanning leather.
Podocarpus falcatus could make an ideal indigenous substitute
for the exotic pine trees currently being used in plantations; trials
done at a forest station at Magoebaskloof showed that the yield
is similar, with the growth rate and quality of the wood comparing
favourably to that of commercial pine. The ripe fruit is edible
and very resinous. The sap is used as a remedy for chest complaints.
Growing Podocarpus falcatus
Remove the fleshy part of the fruit (cone) to expose the seed.
This process is very important as the fleshy part contains an inhibitor,
which seems to suppress germination. The fresh seed can be sown
directly into black nursery bags or into deep seed trays using a
mixture of well-rotted compost and washed sand (1:1). The seed must
be pushed and bedded into the mixture and covered with a light layer
of soil. The mixture must stay moist at all times. Some of the seed
may take up to six months to germinate, so be patient. Seedlings
can be pricked out at a height of 50-80 mm and planted into bags
or pots. Care must be taken not to damage the taproot as this may
slow the initial growth rate of the plant.
- COATES-PALGRAVE, K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa, edn
2. Struik, Cape Town.
- VENTER, F. & J-A. 1996. Making the most of Indigenous
trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- POOLEY, E. 1993. The complete field guide to trees of Natal,
Zululand and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- LEISTNER, O.A., SMITH, G.F. & GLEN, H.F. 1995. Notes
on Podocarpus in southern Africa and Madagascar (Podocarpaceae)..Bothalia
Pretoria National Botanical Garden