Podocarpus totara var. totara
Podocarpus totara G.Benn. ex D.Don
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 threat classification 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) – more information about this can be found on the NZTCS website 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. Please note, threat classifications are often suggested by authors when publications fall between NZTCS assessment periods – a suggested threat classification status has not been assessed by the NZTCS panel.
2017 | Not Threatened
Previous conservation statuses
2012 | Not Threatened
2009 | Not Threatened
2004 | Not Threatened
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.
Wetland plant indicator status rating
FACU: Facultative Upland
Occasionally is a hydrophyte but usually occurs in uplands (non-wetlands).
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.
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)
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.
Not Threatened, though as a vegetation type it is all but extinct throughout most of its former range.
podocarpus: Foot or stalk fruit
totara: After the Maori name, totara
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 prepared by P.J. de Lange for NZPCN (1 June 2013)
References and further reading
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
NZPCN 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. https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/podocarpus-totara-var-totara/ (Date website was queried)