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NZ Plants

Podocarpus totara - tōtara

Podocarp family: Podocarpaceae

Podocarpus totara is a tall forest tree with brownish green foliage of rigid, linear needle-like leaves and a bark that separates into long narrow strips. Small, fleshy ovule cones are formed in which a green epimatium (an outgrowth of the seed scale) covers the developing seed. After fertilisation the bases of the fertile and sterile bracts fuse and become fleshy to form a red receptacle (or 'foot') situated below the seed.

An endemic species found throughout New Zealand from lowland to mountain forest.

More on tōtara: Takana Newsletter


Vegetative characteristics

Reproductive characteristics

Adult plant form: tree up to 35 m

Pollen and ovule cones: on separate trees

Adult leaf form: linear, rigid with sharp tip

Pollen cone: 10-15 mm long

Adult leaf size: 15-30 x 3-4 mm

Ovule cone: 5-8 mm long (?), 1-2 fertile bracts

Adult leaf arrangement: singly along the stem

Ovule position: terminal on a short stem on the upper surface of a fertile bract subtended by fused sterile  bracts (receptacle)

Juvenile leaf form: no distinct juvenile form

Ovule coverings: an inner covering (integument); an outer covering (epimatium) covers the  entire ovule;

Juvenile leaf size: 15-20 mm x 1-2 mm

Ovule pore (micropyle): directed downward


Mature seed cone:   fleshy, 10-15mm long, 1-2 seeds


Stem(receptacle) below seed:  fleshy, derived from basal bracts of the receptacle; red