Broad-leaved Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius) Tree no. 18
Yellowwoods grow singly among other species of large trees where they are often the tallest trees with the thickest trunks.
Where you'll find this tree easily
AFRIKAANS Opregtegeelhoud N. SOTHO Mohlatswa SISWATI umNumbela TSONGA Nombela TSWANA Motlhatswa, Motlhakwa VENDA Munombelo ZULU umNumbela
Podocarpus is from Greek pous = foot + karpos = fruit; the fruit grows on a fleshy stalk; latifolius refers to the relatively broad leaves.
- Broad-leaved Yellowwoods are often huge, usually upright, single-trunked trees with dense canopies.
- Bark on the main stem has shallow, lengthways grooves, and peels off in long strips.
- The thin bark is grey to khaki-coloured, with reddish-brown under-bark showing through in places.
- Simple, spiral, narrow elliptic leaves grow horizontally, and are longer an broader than Small-leaved Yellowwood.
- Hard and leathery, the leaves are dark or bluish-green with a prominent central vein.
- New leaves are very pale green to bronze, and contrast strongly with the dark green canopy.
- The female ‘cones’ have a fleshy, pinkish, red or purple ‘foot’ (receptacle) with one or two round, mottled, purple-grey seeds attached.
Evergreen. This tree can be identified throughout the year by its leaves, bark and habitat.
Younger trees and those in the open tend to branch lower down and have a narrow canopy. In exposed positions, the tree may appear short and stunted. Tall trees in forests are very high-branching, with irregular canopies shaped by the space available between other trees.
The bark on mature trees is characteristic and can be used to identify tall specimens in the forest when the leaves are too high up to examine. Young branches have smooth, ridged bark and are squarish.
The leaf tapers to a sharp point and has a narrow base on a very short stalk. The margin is smooth and rolled under. Leaves on young trees are always larger than those on older trees (60 – 160 x 5 – 13 mm).
The female has a ‘foot’ (receptacle) that increases in size and becomes fleshier as the seeds ripen (Dec – Feb) (Receptacle: 10 mm; SEED: 15 mm diam.). The male cones are small bottlebrush-shaped spikes that grow upright in the angle between the leaves and the twigs (Jul – Sep) (50 x 5 mm).
The Broad-leaved Yellowwood is an attractive, long-lived tree that grows fairly slowly, although a tree may reach a height of up to 14 m within 15 years under very favourable conditions. It is suitable for planting in gardens, parks and along avenues. Fresh seed germinates easily, and plants are frost-resistant. They grow best where there is high rainfall. The relatively small leaves and attractive bark make it suitable as a bonsai.
Links with animals
Fruit-eating birds such as turacos and pigeons, as well as bats, bushpigs and monkeys, eat the female receptacles and the seeds.
This is South Africa’s National Tree. The pale yellow wood is finely grained and was used for ceilings and floorboards in Cape Dutch houses. It is famous for its use in furniture, often together with the harder, dark brown Stinkwood, Ocotea bullata. It is also suitable for boat-building. The bark was burned in cattle kraals to prevent the animals from straying.
For more information on this tree and a wealth of other trees you can find in KwaZulu-Natal get a copy of Sappi Tree Spotting KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. All artwork by Joan van Gogh.