Podocarpus totara var. totara


Podocarpus: foot or stalk fruit
totara: after the Maori name, totara

Common Name(s)


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 totara G.Benn. ex D.Don var. totara



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


Podocarpus totara G.Benn. ex D.Don


Endemic. Common throughout most of the North and South Islands. Present but extremely scarce on Stewart Island (Freshwater River).


Widespread and at times abundant tree of lowland, montane and lower subalpine forest. May also form a vegetation type in which it is the dominant species.


Robust dioecious conifer up to 30 m tall. Trunk stout, 2-3 m diam., clad in thick, corky, furrowed and somewhat stringy reddish-grey bark. Trunk without branches at base, branches stout, erect to spreading. Leaf bud narrower than or the same diam., as branchlet, surrounded by caducous, papery, narrowly lanceolate bracts. Leaves brownish-green, erect, leathery; juvenile 20 x 1-2 mm, adults 15-30 x 3-4 mm., linear-lanceolate, acute, apex pungent, mid-vein distinct to obscure. Male cones (strobili) axillary 10-15 mm, solitary or in 4s. Female branchlets axillary, ovules solitary or paired, receptacle of 2-4 scales, acute and free at tips, maturing as a red, swollen, succulent, sweet tasting "fruit" this surmounted by a 1(-2) broadly elliptic, ovoid-oblong 3-6 mm, semi-glossy, buff, grey nut brown, henna or dark brown (green to glaucous-green) when fresh, seed.

Similar Taxa

Most frequently confused with Podocarpus laetus with which it may co-occur and with which it frequently hybridises. From that species P. totara var. totara can be distinguished by its thicker bark, less pungent leaf tips, and most readily by the leaf bud which is the same diameter as the branchlet, and by the narrower, lanceolate bracts surrounding the emergent leaves. See also Gardner (1990) in references below.


(August-) October (-December)

Flower Colours

No Flowers


Fruits take a year or so to ripen, and may be found throughout the year, usually peaking at about the same time that cones are produced. They are most frequently seen between April and May

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed and hard-wood cuttings.


Not Threatened, though as a vegetation type it is all but extinct throughout most of its former range.

Chromosome No.

2n = 34

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Commonly on offer by most retail nurseries. However, nursery stock often includes cv. aureus the so called Golden Totara (a natural hybrid P. acutifolius x P. totara var. totara). Platts Gold, is another cultivar based on wild trees of P. cunninghamii x P. totara var. totara growing near Albany. All these forms and P. totara var. totara can be purchased from Oratia Native Plant Nurseries (info@oratianatives.co.nz).

Cultural Use/Importance

The distinctive red, somewhat oily wood was the timber of preference for use by Maori for constructing canoes (waka), and carvings. The stringy bark was harvested to make bags in which to hold preserved birds.

Fact Sheet Citation


Please cite as:  de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of Access): Podocarpus totara var. totara Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora_details.aspx?ID=1176  (Date website was queried)

References and further reading

Gardner, R. 1990. Totara and Halls totara. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 45:27-28. 

Moorfield, J. C. (2005). Te aka : Maori-English, English-Maori dictionary and index.  Pearson Longman:  Auckland, N.Z.

Landcare Research. Nga Tipu Whakaoranga - Maori Plant Use Database. http://maoriplantuse.landcareresearch.co.nz/WebForms/default.aspx 

This page last updated on 17 Sep 2018