Podocarpus salignus D.Don

Willow-leaf podocarp

Family: Podocarpaceae
5º 55.937W

The tree tag number relates to the black tree-maintenance tags, usually fixed on the trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.

The podocarps are southern Hemisphere conifers. They evolved in the super-continent of Gondwana which later broke up into South America, Africa, India, New Zealand and New Caladonias, each of which has podocarp species. There are over 100 species in the Podocarpus genus. Podocarpus salignus is a distinctive species endemic to Chile where it grows in the Andes and coastal Cordillera. It is reasonably frost-tolerant and can be seen in major parks and gardens in the UK including as far north as Edinburgh Botanic Garden. It is threatened in the wild because of habitat loss. The plum-shaped fruit are only produced where both male and female plants are present. The male plants produce long catkins; the female plants produce cones each with one or two seeds. The scale that holds the seed becomes fleshy and red, reminiscent of the red fleshy aril of the Northern Hemisphere yews (a good example of convergent evolution). We don’t know yet whether the Belfast Botanic Gardens tree is male or female – when it flowers we may try to find it a mate.

reference: M.F.Gardner, 2013. Podocarpus salignus, from the website, Threatened Conifers of The World ( http://threatenedconifers.rbge.org.uk/taxa/details/762 ). 

Upper photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.