Podocarpus falcatus

(Presently Afrocarpus falcatus)

  • Outeniqua Yellowwood
  • Small-leaved Yellowwood
  • Common Yellowwood
  • Bastard Yellowwood
  • African Fern Pine
  • Outeniekwa Geelhout
  • Kalander (A)
  • umGeya (Z)
  • umKhoba (X)


  • A magnificent, medium to very large tree, with a tall, clean, cylindrical trunk of attractively flaking bark, and a slender or rounded, much branched crown of graceful and delicate leaves in a charming shade of green. often seen with lovely tufts of hanging lichens. Some of the largest specimens can be found in the Knysna forests and are believed to more than 600 years old – awe inspiring relics of the giants that once flourished. It is a protected tree in South Africa.

SA Tree

  • 16



  • Podocarpaceae (The Yellowwood family)
  • A large family of conifers mainly found in the southern hemisphere, belonging to the order Pinales, with more than 17 genera and 110 species of ornamental and valuable, evergreen timber trees and shrubs.
  • Members typically do bear traditional flowers, but instead produce primitive and reduced cones, with globose or elliptical seeds that mature within fleshy arils.
  • The male and female reproductive organs are carried on separate trees (dioecious).
  • Leaves are generally needle-like, broad or narrow, with entire or toothed margins, occurring in sub-opposite, alternate or spiral arrangements.


  • These trees are particularly characteristic of Afromontane forests, where they are often the dominant species, from Kenya in tropical Africa, extending downwards towards the southern and Eastern Cape of South Africa, northern Gauteng, Limpopo, Swaziland and Mozambique.
  • They prefer areas with a high annual rainfall, and can also be found in wooded gorges, patches of mountain forests, coastal swamp forests, to altitudes of up to 2500 m, but are rarely found in sand forests.
  • (The trees grow at higher elevations in tropical areas and descend to near sea level in the sub tropics.)


  • Greyish-brown, to dark brown, often with a reddish or purplish hue, and a relatively thin texture.

  • On younger trees the bark is relatively smooth and faintly ridged, progressively becoming more scabrous and peeling in rough, round to rectangular pieces as the tree matures.

  • The main stem is most often tall, straight, and bare, with a diameter of 1-3 m.


  • Evergreen.

  • Leaves on juvenile trees are nearly perfectly oppositely arranged, while mature leaves can be spirally arranged or semi-whorled, with a distinctive twist at the base, giving them a slightly vertical stance, and are carried on square branchlets.

  • Light, bluish or yellowish-green when young, they mature to a rich, dark-greyish green, with yellow midribs.

  • The leaves are quite small (13-100 x 0.3-0.6 mm), hairless, tough and thinly fibrous, with a glossy, somewhat waxy texture and smooth margins.

  • Often sickle-shaped, also straight or faintly curved, narrow, tips sharply pointed, tapering to the base, on short petioles.


  • These trees belong to the Gymnospermae group of seed-bearing plants -they produce cones rather than flowers.

  • They are dioecious. Male cones grow from leaf axils in groups of 2-4, or singly, and are brownish to yellowish-pink, with numerous spirally scales, (5-15 x 0.3 mm), and bear 2 pollen sacks.

  • Female cones are solitary, hard, slightly oval, (10-20 mm), and grow from the ends of short, leafy branchlets.

  • Each has a single fertile scale.

  • They are initially green, with a light purple tint, and a thin outer shell.

  • The male cones mature during early summer on the previous seasons growth and the pollen is discharged at the end of the next winter (a two-year interval).

  • The female cones develop with new leaves in spring and are pollinated when the pollen is released from the mature male cones.

  • September – May.


  • The female cones take nearly a full year to develop, each producing a single seed.

  • The “fruit” is globose, rich yellow and fleshy, and encloses a single, “woody”, grey-green drupe-like seed (10-15 mm in diameter), that is carried at the end of a woody stalk.

  • December – May


  • 4-20 m in cultivation, reaching gigantic proportions of 45 m or more in its natural habitat of moist forest.


  • 2-6 m


  • The bark and seeds are mainly used in traditional medicine.
  • Powdered seeds are applied to sunburn, are said to treat tuberculoid meningitis, and an oil extract is used as in the treatment of gonorrhoea.
  • Concoctions of the bark are used as painkillers, to treat diarrhoea, stomach ache and bring relief from itching rashes.
  • The sap is used for chest complaints.


  • The seeds are edible, but very resinous.
  • The leaves contain podolide, which is an additive in the production of commercial insecticides.
  • The attractive, yellow to pale golden-brown wood is fine textured and straight or sometimes spirally, but always evenly grained. It saws easily, and season well.
  • The timber is highly prized for boat building, and straight stems are often used for the topmasts and yards.
  • It is also widely used for high-quality furniture, panelling, flooring, door frames, toys, implements, musical instruments, railroad ties and more.
  • It is due to this popularity that the trees are threatened today.
  • The wood is said to be almost free of odours and is popular for making food containers.
  • It also makes a good firewood.
  • The bark contains a small percentage of tannins and has been used to colour leather.


  • The trees are known to be magnets for bird life.
  • They not only love to nest high up amongst the concealing branches, but also relish the fleshy fruits.
  • Bats have also been known to eat the fruits and help disperse the seeds.
  • On the ground, bush pigs, monkeys and baboons devour the cones, and rodents, especially the dormouse, hoard the seeds.


  • Due to their majestic and highly attractive form, they make excellent specimens for street planting, and are suitable for large estates or big, open lawns.
  • Their densely spreading crowns make them ideal candidates for casting deep shade.
  • When the roots are restricted, so is the growth, and they can easily be trained into lovely container plants for large patios and bonsai subjects.
  • Planted together, they make marvellous windbreaks or hedges.
  • They can grow well in difficult coastal gardens and are highly ornamental.
  • As Christmas trees, they are a good substitute for Pine and Fir trees.


  • The trees are tolerant of light frost, and established trees can endure low temperatures of up to -2°c, but young trees and new growth can be severely damaged by extreme cold and should be protected.
  • They can endure daytime temperatures of more than 28°c, but are highly sensitive to drought, and prefer areas with an annual rainfall of 700- 1800 mm.
  • Coastal environments, with sandy, slightly saline soils and strong, salt-laden winds are tolerated.
  • They are unsuited for very hot and dry areas but will endure cold winters provided there is sufficient humidity.

Growth Rate

  • Average to fast, dependant on moisture levels.
  • Under optimum conditions and in higher rainfall areas, a rate of 40-80 cm per year can be expected.


  • This is the least shade tolerant of all the Yellowwoods, and needs a fair amount of strong, direct sunlight every day. (6-8 hours) It will succeed in light shade, and young plants tolerate fairly deep shade.

Soil & Water

  • Grows well in nearly all soil types, provided it is given a rich supply of organic material.
  • Optimal development will occur in deep, humus-rich, light-textured and well-drained, peaty or loamy soils with a neutral Ph of 5-7.
  • Water regularly and deeply, as the trees are quite water-loving.


  • The trees can be grown from seed or cuttings.
  • Seeds, under good storage conditions, can retain their viability for several years.
  • The seed has two forms of dormancy; a chemical, which is broken by detaching the fleshy layer, and a mechanical, caused by the hard-outer seed coat.
  • This must be broken and removed.
  • Freshly harvested seeds have a fair germination rate of 50-60% in 6-9 weeks, with the coat still attached.
  • After the seeds have been dried, germination can take more than six months unless the seed coat is detached.
  • Sow the seeds in a light, well drained mixture of equal amounts fine river sand and compost.
  • Push the seeds slightly into the soil and cover with a fine soil layer. Place in a warm, shady area.
  • Mist regularly – never allow the mixture to dry out!
  • Cuttings should be taken from actively growing, end shoots (as opposed to cuttings from lateral branches and shoots) in order to produce plants with upright growth.
  • After winter, the developing seedlings can be transplanted into small plastic bags, or directly into the site of planting – care should be taken not to damage the taproot – this can stunt growth for up to a year afterwards.