mountain tōtara, Hall’s tōtara, thin-barked tōtara, tōtara-kiri-kōtukutuku
Podocarpus hallii Kirk; Podocarpus cunninghamii Colenso
Vascular – Native
Trees & Shrubs - Gymnosperms
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.
2n = 34
Current conservation status
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2017 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2012 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: By Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, John W. Barkla, Shannel P. Courtney, Paul D. Champion, Leon R. Perrie, Sarah M. Beadel, Kerry A. Ford, Ilse Breitwieser, Ines Schönberger, Rowan Hindmarsh-Walls, Peter B. Heenan and Kate Ladley.
2012 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
Endemic. North, South and Stewart Islands.
Lowland, montane to lower subalpine forest (but notably more common in montane forest). Often found on impoverished soils, immature (skeletal) soils, or sites that are naturally stressed by drought or extreme temperature fluctuations.
Robust dioecious conifer up to 20 m tall. Trunk stout, 1-1.5 m diam., clad in papery, thin, freely flaking reddish-grey bark. Trunk without branches at base, branches slender, erect, spreading or somewhat drooping. Leaf bud significantly broader than the diam., of the branchlet, surrounded by caducous, papery, ovate bracts. Leaves yellow-green, green, or brownish-green, erect, leathery; juvenile 25-50 x 4-5 mm, adults 20-30 x 3-4 mm., narrow-linear to linear-lanceolate, acute to acuminate, apex very pungent, mid-vein distinct. Male cones (strobili) axillary, 10-25 mm, solitary or up to 5 on a common peduncle. Female branchlets axillary, ovules solitary or paired. Receptacle of 2-4 scales, irregularly elliptic-oblong to obovate-oblong, maturing as a red, swollen, succulent, sweet tasting “fruit” this surmounted by a 1(-2) elliptic, elliptic-oblong or ovate-oblong, (5-)6.5-8.5 mm long, grey nut brown or dark brown (green when fresh) seed.
Distinguished from Podocarpus totara var. totara by the leaf bud which is wider than the diameter of the branchlet (resembles a meat ball on a stick), and by the broadly ovate bud bracts. The bark is generally papery - hence “thin barked totara”, the leaves (especially juveniles and subadults) are longer and broader with a very sharp, pungent leaf tip. Hybridises with P. totara var. totara and hybrids can only reliably be distinguished by bud scale and bud diameter characters. See also Gardner (1990) in references below.
(August-) October (-December)
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
Easily grown from fresh seed and hard-wood cuttings.
podocarpus: Foot or stalk fruit
laetus: From the Latin laetus ‘bright’
Where To Buy
Uncommon in cultivation. Not often seen in gardens though it is commercially available.
Molloy (2015) has outlined the complex taxonomic history of Hall’s totara noting that there are three valid names that could be used for this species, P. hallii Kirk, P. cunninghamii Colenso and P. laetus Hooibr. ex Endl. Molloy (2015) concludes that Podocarpus laetus is the earliest legitimate and validly published name, and in the absence of any final ruling on the matter that name is now used here. Previously it had been recommended that P. cunninghamii should be used (see Molloy 1985; de Lange & Rolfe 2010).
Fact sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange (8 January 2005). Description adapted from Kirk 1889 and Allan 1961).
References and further reading
Allan, H.H. 1961: Flora of New Zealand. Wellington, Government Printer.
Connor, H.E.; Edgar, E. 1987: Name changes and Nomina Nova IV. New Zealand Journal of Botany 25:
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R. 2010: New Zealand Indigenous Vascular Plant Checklist. Wellington, New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. 164pp.
Gardner, R. 1990. Totara and Halls totara. Auckland Botanical Society Journal, 45: 27-28.
Kirk, T. 1889: The Forest Flora of New Zealand. Wellington, Government Printer.
Molloy, B.P.J. 1985: The continuing saga of native conifer nomenclature. DSIR Botany Division Newsletter 102: 26-27.
Molloy, B.P.J. 2015: The correct name for the New Zealand endemic conifer Hall’s totara
(Araucariales: Podocarpaceae). Phytotaxa 220: 101-116.
NZPCN Fact Sheet citation
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Podocarpus laetus Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/podocarpus-laetus/ (Date website was queried)