Mountain totara, snow totara
Podocarpus nivalis Hook. var. nivalis, Podocarpus nivalis var. erectus Cockayne
Vascular – Native
Gymnosperm Trees & Shrubs
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 = 38
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. New Zealand: North and South Islands from Mt Hikurangi and Mt Pirongia south.
Montane to alpine (virtually confined to subalpine and alpine areas in the North Island). Common in open tussock grassland, subalpine scrub and herbfield, at the base of active scree, amongst boulderfalls and on cliff faces and razorback ridges. Sometimes extending down into beech (Nothofagus forest) and down into valley heads.
Prostrate to suberect, spreading woody shrub forming broadly domed patches up to 1.5 × 3.0 m. Trunk usually indistinct (mostly obscured by branches), slender, solitary (sometimes several arising from base). Branches numerous, spreading with slender trunk, branchlets densely leafy. Leaves bronze-green, dark green, sometimes dark wine-red or bronze-purple, closely spaced, spirally arranged, erect or sub-patent, rigid, coriaceous; lamina 5-15 × 2-4 mm, linear-oblong,± subulate, obtuse, apex ± apiculate, margins distinctly thickened, midvein prominent. Male strobili axillary, solitary or up to 4 per peduncle; peduncle 3-5 mm long, strobilus 5-15 mm long, apiculus obtuse. Female branchlet axillary, peduncle 3 mm. long, receptacle 2.5-10.0 mm long, red, elliptic-oblong to obovate-oblong, slightly compressed, smooth, swollen (fleshy). Seeds solitary or paired, 3·5-7·0 mm long, green when fresh, ovoid or ellipsoid-ovoid, weakly asymmetric, obtusely pointed.
None. The prostrate or spreading suberect, heavily branched growth habit, densely leafy branchlets, and small, closely spaced, awl-shaped usually bronze-green leaves serve to distinguish this species from the other allied species of totara. Nevertheless where the ranges of Podocarpus nivalis overlap with that of Hall’s totara (P. laetus), totara (P. totara var. totara) and needle-leaved totara (P. acutifolius) hybrids can be common - these are chiefly distinguished by their suberect to erect growth habit, often pendulous branches and much longer, narrower leaves which are not distinctly awl-shaped. The hybrids are fully fertile and introgressive hybrid swarms are sometimes common, especially where than ranges of Hall’s totara and P. nivalis overlap. Podocarpus nivalis has also been confused with the Australian P. lawrencei which differs from P. nivalis in a range of characters but most notably by its consistently dark purple-brown coloured foliage.
September - November
December - June
Easily grown from hardwood cuttings and fresh seed. Does well in full sun in a well drained, moist fertile soil. An excellent shrub for a rockery or small garden. A good subject for a tub garden or for making into bonsai. Despite its natural distribution Podocarpus nivalis is remarkably tolerant of drought and humidity.
podocarpus: Foot or stalk fruit
nivalis: Snow dweller
Podocarpus nivalis has also (incorrectly) been referred by some New Zealand authors to the Australian endemic P. lawrencei.
Factsheet 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.
Webb, C.J.; Simpson, M.J.A. 2001: Seeds of New Zealand Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Christchurch, Manuka Press.
Please cite as: de Lange, P.J. (Year at time of access): Podocarpus nivalis Fact Sheet (content continuously updated). New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/podocarpus-nivalis/ (Date website was queried)