Podocarpus falcatus

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Botanical Name
Podocarpus falcatus
Podocarpaceae -

The yellowood family.

pod-oh-KAR-pus fal-KAY-tus
Common Name(s)
English: Common Yellowwood; Bastard Yellowwood; Outeniqua Yellowwood; Smooth-barked Yellowwood
Afrikaans: Bastergeelhout; Gewone Geelhout; Outeniekwa-geelhout
IsiXhosa: Umkhoba; Umkolaya; Umngcondo
IsiZulu: Umgeya; Umhlenhlane; Umomphumelo; Umpume; Umsonti
Sesotho sa Leboa: Mogôbagôba
Tshivenda: Mufhanza
Plant Group
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Very large
    TreeOver 25m
    ShrubOver 4m
    Perennial/ground coverOver 1m
    BulbOver 1.2m
    Succulent1.5m to 2m
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Roots Non-invasive Safe to plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

The Yellowood Family belongs to the Gymnospermae group of seed-bearing plants, meaning they produce cones rather than flowers. This places them in the same group as cycads, cypress, pine and fir trees.

Podocarpus falcatus can reach a height of 45 m in nature but remains much smaller (about 15 m) when cultivated in a garden situation. This elegant tree has a long clean, cylindrical trunk with a slender crown and a light or crowded branching system. The leathery narrow leaves are blue-green when young, becoming dark green as they mature. The bark is smooth and ridged on younger stems and flakes off attractively on the trunk and older branches. The primitive cones are produced on separate male and female trees. The large, yellow, fleshy fruits are produced at the end of a woody stalk and take a year to ripen. The tree is chosen by many bird species for nesting.

Podocarpus falcatus makes a  striking tree for a seaside garden as it grows well in sandy soils and tolerates salt laden winds.

Podocarpaceae are protected trees in South Africa, meaning that  no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy  the tree, and their products may not be possessed, collected, removed, transported, exported, donated, purchased or sold - except under licence granted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (or a delegated authority).

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this tree does not bear flowers

  • Spring to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
Growth Rate
  • Moderate Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • Hedge Suitable trees or shrubs planted relatively close together so that the branches intertwine to create a barrier. This can be formal – the plants are regularly trimmed to produce a neat shape, or informal – the plants are left to themselves to create a natural hedgerow.
  • Provides deep shade A dense evergreen tree useful for a low light planting environment or for a recreational shade area.
  • Suitable for bonsai A shrub or tree that lends itself to being dwarfed.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
  • Windbreak Trees planted in a row to form protection from prevailing winds by breaking the force of the wind, thereby reducing wind damage.
Distribution and Habitat

from the southern Western Cape Province, north-east through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalange and Limpopo, as well as Swaziland and Mozambique, mainly in afromontane (mountain) forest, occasionally in coastal swamp forests, and also in wooded ravines in moist places

Planting Suggestions

The Outeniqua yellowwood grows well in all soil types provided it is well composted and receives adequate water. Trees benefit from a layer of mulch extending beyond the edge of the branches. This keeps roots cool and reduces moisture loss from the soil. Care must be taken when transplanting not to damage the taproot as this may slow the initial growth rate of the plant. The growth rate is average, from about 50 cm per year.

This is an excellent container plant which can be used as an indoor Christmas tree.

The old method of digging a deep hole and filling it with soil and compost has resulted in many trees failing to thrive, dying, rotting at the base or worse still, falling over in later years due to poor root development.  Refer to the following sites for the best method of planting trees:

Treehelp.com: Planting a tree

International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting

Tree People: Plant the right way

For those of you who have a clay problem try:

Rod's Garden: Planting in clay soil

Medicinal Uses

Podocarpus falcatus is well known for its valuable pale yellow wood, traditionally used in the manufacture of fine furniture. The bark is used for tanning leather and the sap is used to treat chest complaints. Oil extracted from the seeds or fruits is used to treat gonorrhea.

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I have 2 mature (planted 1978) trees at my home in Gauteng, which are now about 14 m tall, and which bear fruit with viable seeds approximately every 2-3 years. If the birds come along and carry off the fruit, are they breaking the law by "collecting,distributing or donating" the seeds to other neighbourhoods? How am I breaking the law by giving the seedlings to other gardeners or planting saplings in public parks or along watercourses? I thought that was what Arbour month was all about!

This year is the first time we have seen a really HEAVY crop of fruit on our two trees, and also the first time a large gathering of African Green Pigeons (Treron Calvus), has been spending the day up there eating the fruit( up to 20 birds at a time!). As I said in 2013, they are now breaking the law by collecting and distributing said seeds all over the show. Hopefully some of these will take root along watercourses such as the Jukskei river, where currently mostly (55%) alien vegetation like bluegum is growing.

@ Charles Kuhn
Great news on the 2 trees that you have. I totally get what you are saying with replanting them. However I must just bring to you attention that birds are part of natures course, whereas humans can deliberately interfere with nature to the detriment of the environment. Once again I am mainly talking here of national state parks. I am sure there is not much harm in letting people grow them in their gardens.
While the yellow woods are indigineous trees to South Africa, remember that it is only certain parts of South Africa where they actually are.
The laws are also there to stop people just planting things and presuming that they are helping when they could be doing more harm than not( Hence all the black wattle and gumtrees that are doing more damage as alien species).
You know exactly what tree you have there, remember most do not know that.
The only thing that got my attention in your statement was "public parks or along watercourses". If you are referring to state forests, then I'd be a bit careful as they are quiet harsh on anyone interfering with the national state forests. (Not disagreeing with the intention here just saying they are strict.)
But yes, I definitely say, depending where you live, spread the seeds around, you are helping in a big way!
I wish more people who owned indigenous trees like you would have the thoughts of planting the seeds.......

I am 94 years old and ardent gardener and live with my son and family on a property filled almost exclusively with indeginous trees shrubs and a natural swimming pool. I have a property in a Sectional Title complex on the coast which is now nearly fully developed (all buildings completed) with very little space between building lines. I have many well established small to medium indeginous trees and shrubs on the property. Our neighbour has recently planted 3 Small (1meter) Yellowood trees in our portion of the land without our knowledge. On looking up the growth statistics on the tree it is very apparent that these trees will create a major problem down the road not only for ourselves but for our other neighbours (and dwellings) in the immediate vicinity and will eventually have to be cut down. These trees are still very young and could still possibly be transplanted. Would our neighbour or the "Body Corporate" not have had to apply for a permit to purchase and plant the trees and if not, other than warning our other neighbours of the potential problem they may face downd the road (the trees have been planted within 15 meters or less of the other properties) what else do you suggest I do as I believe that the planting of these trees in a densely built-up area is irresponsible. Tree lover

If it is still so young and you are concerned, you can have it transplanted. The roots themselves shouldn't cause any issue as they the taproot goes long, straight and deep, it doesn't really spread out. When they are planted in residential they usually stay between 10 - 15 meters high MAX. If it is on a "out of town" piece of property then it could get higher. I am not too sure what area you stay in but they generally only get huge in their natural habitat, the growth is also slow.
Your neighbor would not have needed a permit if he bought it from a nursery, as they will be allowed to sell them. (Yip the law in effect is quite useless)
I am not too sure on building requirements, if he would have needed "permission" for that.

By all means you could get it transplanted somewhere, personally I wouldn't really worry about it, unless it is planted above or near plumbing, water pipes and that sort of thing.
Try also to find out if it is Outiniqua or REAL yellowwood.

It is said that I cannot prune my Podocarpus falcatus Bonsai as it is not allowed in terms of the forest act for protected trees, according to DAFF. The tree was a gift and was originally bought from a nursery. DAFF will not issue a permit in this case. Is the intention of this act so narrow minded? How do I manage my miniature tree without pruning?

I planted a 1m high Outeniqua Yellowwood tree in a 1/2m hole prepared with compost & bonemeal (as advised). I found Koffieklip about halfway down and loosened most with a pick-axe and dug what I could out. I do not know how far down this koffieklip goes, but am concerned it could stunt growth of the tree roots. Is my concern valid?

Hi Des

My sincere apologies for taking so long to reply to your query.

Yes I do think your concern is valid. Although I did not find much botanical information, what I did find is not encouraging.

Ferricrete impedes root growth so that vegetation consists of sparse grass, stunted shrubs and gnarled and stunted trees. Koffieklip retains almost no moisture and rapidly absorbs and reradiates solar heat. From what I can understand, Koffieklip layers may vary from a few centimeters to many meters.

As you have little topsoil, most root growth will be shallow and horizontal. Unless the roots (or yourself) can punch a hole through the layer, they will not be able to anchor themselves securely, nor will they be able to find nutrients and moisture in sufficient quantities.

Kind regards

To our geology experts - please add your comments and correct my understanding if I have made any errors.

it is a good source of information

Thank you for your comment.

My parents are retired and have about 200 yellow wood trees that came up on their farm they are about 10 years old. How would they go about selling the trees. Is it illegal to see it to a nursary or other gardeners?

Hi Nicola

I do not have the experience to answer this question. I suggest you google "big tree nurseries South Africa" and from them you might be able to gather information about correct unearthing, bagging and transport of these trees.

Regarding the legalities, the removal or pruning of protected trees, including those on private property, may not be done without the approval of Nature Conservation authorities. To sell protected trees planted in bags, also requires a permit.

Kind regards

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