Podocarpus macrophyllus: Buddhist Pine, Japanese Yew

These plants are conifers even though one would not believe it at first glance. The leaves are flat, longish-lanceolate to linear, with very simple parallel veins, and the inflorescence is a cone. Female cones have a single ovule and several scales.

The genus Podocarpus is found chiefly in the southern hemisphere; several species of horticultural value grow in south-east Asia, and some are to be found even at subalpine elevations on Kilimanjaro. They are mostly trees, only occasionally small shrubs, but in cultivation their size is a far cry from that attained in the wild. The trunk is strikingly erect, the branches regular and densely leaved.

The P. macrophyllus (syn. P. chinensis) is native to China and Japan. It is a tall shrub with dense foliage composed of approximately 10-cm-(4-in-) long leaves. It is generally described as a plant for the cool greenhouse, but experiments at planting it outdoors in gardens in the warmest parts of Germany have met with success. Its adaptability must be very great indeed for some specimens may do well for years even in very warm, centrally-heated homes. Particularly suitable for such conditions is the cultivar ‘Aureus’ which, like all variegated plants, is somewhat more delicate than the type species.

In many species the leaves are much wider. The rare P. fleuryi from Vietnam, for instance, has broadly lanceolate leaves. P. acudfolius from New Zealand, on the other hand, has extremely narrow, pointed leaves; this species stands up exceptionally well to pruning and can be kept the size of a small shrub.

Propagation is by cuttings taken from only slightly woody stem tips and inserted in a peat and sand mixture in a warm, moist propagator, where they will root reliably, though slowly. Rooted cuttings should be transferred to John Innes potting compost No. 1. Liberal watering is a must in summer; plants put in a warm spot will not stop growth even in winter and so watering should only be somewhat limited at this time. Plants will benefit by frequent ventilation and syringing of the leaves.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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