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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.

Podocarpus henkelii

Podocarpus henkelii

  • Henkel’s yellowwood (E)

  • Falcate Yellowwood (E)

  • Drooping-leaved Yellowwood (E)

  • Long-leaved Yellowwood

  • Henkel-se-Geelhout (A)

  • umSonti (Z)


  • A fine, medium to very large and tall, evergreen tree, with a typically straight, well-formed trunk of greyish brown to yellowish-brown, beautifully flaking bark and a dense, conical crown that becomes elegantly curved or pointed with age.

  • The tree is adorned with long, willowy, sleek, blue-green leaves that are spirally arranged in drooping tufts on gracefully weeping branches and is considered by many to be the most attractive of all the indigenous Yellowwoods.

  • The trees are named after Dr. J.S Henkel, Conservator of Forests in Natal in the 1930’s, who was the first to recognise it as a new species.

SA Tree

  • 17


  • 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.


  • Found mostly in high, moist, evergreen and deciduous inland forests, especially common in the afro-montane forests of the Drakensberg mountains in Natal.

  • Also occurring in the northern parts of Transkei, eastern Lesotho, extending to the northern Eastern Cape.

  • Less common in coastal forests.


  • Dark grey to pale grey-brown, or even yellowish-brown, with deep, longitudinal fissures and long, narrowly flaking strips on older trees.

  • The cracks expose the beautiful, russet-red under-bark.

  • The main stem is typically tall and straight, but often becomes crooked with age, and can be single or multi-stemmed, with a diameter of up to a 1000mm.


  • Evergreen.

  • Narrow, slender, oval-lanceolate (55-300 x 10-13 mm), simple and alternately or spirally arranged leaves, typically crowded towards the ends of branchlets.

  • The long, curved and pendulous leaves gradually taper to a pointed tip and are widest in the middle.

  • They have entire, finely rolled under margins, clearly defined midribs, and are held horizontally on the stems, with a distinct drooping habit.

  • Fresh leaves are a fresh, soft green to pink, and mature to a deep, glossy bright green or bluish-green.


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

  • They are also dioecious, – the reproductive organs are carried separately, and on different plants.

  • Male cones are rather large (20-30 x 4-10 mm), erect, carried singly or small groups of no more than 5, and have a pale, salmon-pink colouring.

  • A single female cone is produced.

  • This cone is generally carried on a short stalk, with a poorly developed receptacle.

  • The large, oval to round seed (25 x 20 mm), is a fresh olive-green, and ripens to a yellowish-green. (September – November, ripening in winter – April to May)


  • 10-30 m (40 m or more only in its natural, forested habitat)


  • 2-5 m


  • The wood is an attractive, yellow to pale golden-brown and has been in very high demand for a long time.

  • It is beautifully even-grained, saws easily, and season well.

  • In the past, the trees were heavily exploited because of the high quality of the timber, and today, it is only used to a limited extent because of limited availability.

  • Exceptional quality furniture, carvings, small household items, floor and ceiling boards have been constructed from it.


  • The trees are big attractions for birds (African green pigeons, Parrots and Louries etc.), and some smaller mammals such as bushpigs, monkeys and baboons, which eat the fruits.

  • The kernels of the seeds are also a large source of food for many bird species and are mostly distributed by seed eating birds, and occasionally bats.

  • As a nesting site, the trees, especially older, large specimens, are favoured by many birds.


  • A tough, majestic evergreen once established, easy to cultivate, and incredibly long-lived.

  • Highly ornamental, with a neat, almost pyramidal, elegant form and lovely weeping foliage.

  • Responds well to pruning and can easily be trimmed into a variety of shapes.

  • It makes and excellent specimen/ focal tree for large, open lawns, and is a good choice for street and park planting, as well as schools and farms, where it will provide invaluable shade.

  • When planting in the middle of a lawn, it is crucial remove at least 1 -1.5 m diameter of lawn around the tree, as its roots cannot compete with the surrounding, dense grass, and development can be hampered.

  • Although this tree has a tap root and the root system is not overly aggressive, its huge stature that comes with age should be considered thoroughly when choosing a spot.

  • Planted in rows, the trees will look stunning in formal walkways, and they also make excellent and sturdy windbreaks and shelter belts for sensitive flora.

  • For formal or informal hedging or screening, as well as a background foliage addition, these trees are highly suited, as their fine foliage will contrast very well with most other shrubs and trees.

  • It makes a fine container specimen for patios or areas that are shaded for parts of the day, as they will never grow big if the roots are restricted.

  • Perfect for an indigenous, living Christmas tree.


  • The trees prefer temperate to warm, moist, regions with a high summer rainfall, but will tolerate less favourable sites.

  • Growth will however be significantly slower in these areas.

  • It is only moderately tolerant of high, strong winds and drought; preferring sheltered, humid conditions.

  • They are unsuited for areas with very hot, dry summers or where there are extended periods of drought or severe temperate fluctuations.

  • Once established, it can withstand the occasional dry spell, but should be given extra water during extended dry summer periods and when young.

  • Young trees can be severely damaged or even killed by very cold conditions and should be protected for at least the first 4 years, whereafter they can survive mild to moderate frosts.

  • They can endure cold winters provided there is enough humidity.

Growth Rate

  • Moderate to fast; 300 – 900 mm per year under ideal conditions.


  • Full sun to partial shade.

Soil & Water

  • These trees naturally prefer well-drained, deep, moist and humus enriched soils, and will grow best in loamy, peaty or somewhat sandy soils, with a slightly acidic ph.

  • In heavy clay soils their development can be severely stunted.

  • They have medium to high water needs, as they frequent high rainfall areas in their natural distribution, and need regular, deep drenching’s (20-40l of water 3-4 times per week).


  • Propagation from seed is relatively successful provided they are free of parasites and fungal diseases.

  • The first seeds produced by the tree are generally infested already, but viable seeds can usually be collected 3-4 weeks afterwards.

  • It is advisable to remove the fleshy fruit covering, as this inhibits germination.

  • If storing the seeds for future use, keep in a dry, cool and dark place, but preferably in cold storage.

  • Sow the seeds in a well-drained, fertile mixture of fine river sand and compost (2:1), and place in a bright, temperate to warm area, and mist the soil often.

  • Germination will typically occur within 6-8 weeks, but this can be shortened by placing the seed trays on bottom-heated benches.

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