Podocarpus acutifolius


Podocarpus: foot or stalk fruit

Common Name(s)

Westland totara, needle-leaved totara

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Podocarpus acutifolius Kirk



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Gymnosperm Trees & Shrubs


Endemic. New Zealand: South Island (mostly westerly from the Buller River and adjoining tributaries, west and south to Martins Bay)


Lowland to montane along river flats, in forest or open shrubland and grassland. Often forming dense thickets along active and passive river channels.


Shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, Trunk often several (due to suckering from base), main trunk up to 0.4 m diameter breast height Bark somewhat chartaceous, stringy and thin, flaking readily in long or short strips. Branches erect, slender up to 9 m. Branchlets erect, slender initially densely leafy, leaves shedding along branchlet with age. Leaves 15.0-23.0 × 0.75-3.5 mm, dark green to yellow-green, linear, acuminate, pungent, mid-vein indistinct; stomatal lines often conspicuous. Male strobili axillary, solitary or up to 4 together on common peduncle 2-3 mm long; peduncle furnished above with 2 narrow-triangular keeled scales and below with 4 ovate scales; strobilus 10-20 mm long; apiculus obtuse. Ovules solitary or in pairs on peduncle c.1 mm long; receptacle 2.5-7.0 mm long, red irregularly elliptic-oblong to obovate-oblong, slightly compressed, smooth, swollen (fleshy). Seeds solitary or paired, 4.0-5.5 mm long, green when fresh, elliptic to ovate-elliptic, slightly asymmetric, narrow-acuminate, blunt or subacute.

Similar Taxa

Podocarpus acutifolius is superficially similar to P. totara var. waihoensis - which is is believed to be a hybrid arising from introgression between P. acutifolius and P. totara var. totara (see Wardle 1972). Both totara are occasionally found growing sympatrically or even syntopically. Podocarpus acutifolius differs from P. totara var. waihoensis by its usually smaller shrubby growth habit, much narrow leaves tree habit, and seeds which are elliptic to ovate-elliptic and narrowly beaked (cf. broadly elliptic, shortly and more broadly beaked). From the other totara P. acutifolius differs by the suckering and multi-trunked often shrubby growth habit, much slender branches, narrow-linear leaves, and elliptic to ovate-elliptic, narrowly beaked seeds.


September - November

Flower Colours

No Flowers


December - June

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from hardwood cuttings and fresh seed. Does well in full sun in a well drained, moist fertile soil. Podocarpus acutifolius is moderately fast growing due to its compact, upright branching growth habit makes an excellent hedge. The species is rather variable ranging from large shrubs to small trees and there does seem to be some genetic basis for this. The most commonly cultivated form of it (at least in the North Island) makes a densely branched shrub up to 4 m tall and 2 m wide. Although reasonably drought tolerant, P. acutifolius does best in a damp soil, and is an excellent shrub to plant along waterways in urban areas. When planted in mass its fine sharp needles serve as a almost unequaled deterrent to animals and unwanted "visitors".


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 34

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family



Fact Sheet Citation


Please cite as:  de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of Access): Podocarpus acutifolius Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=1173  (Date website was queried)



Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 4 January 2012. Description adapted from Allan (1961) and Webb & Simpson (2001).

References and further reading

Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. I, Wellington, Government Printer.

Wardle, P. 1972: Podocarpus totara var. waihoensis var. nov. : the result of introgressive hybridisation between P. totara and P. acutifolius. New Zealand Journal of Botany 10: 195-201.

Webb, C.J.; Simpson, M.J.A. 2001: Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, Manuka Press.

This page last updated on 17 Sep 2018