T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Prumnopitys taxifolia (Matai, Black pine)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Prumnopityaceae
Genus: Prumnopitys
Species: P. taxifolia
Binomial name: Prumnopitys taxifolia
Synonyms: Podocarpus spicatus, Dacrydium spicatum Synonym: Dacrydium taxifolium, Podocarpus spicatus, Prumnopitys spicata, Stachycarpus spicatus
Common names: Matai, Black pine, Black Yew Pine

Prumnopitys taxifolia (Matai or Black pine) is an endemic New Zealand dioecious coniferous tree with a broad crown on stout upright spreading branches and it grows on the North Island and South Island. It also occurs on Stewart Island/Rakiura (47 °S) but is uncommon there. It grows up to 33 m high, with a trunk up to 2.35 m diameter and is thought to have a life span of a 1000 years. It has grey-brown dotted bark that flakes off in thick round or oval chunks, whitish underneath, leaving red patches on the trunk. A Podocarpus spicatus has a long-lasting juvenile stage. A seedling it has long flexible drooping branches with occasional brown, pale yellow, or dirty white leaves
(5-10mm x 1-2mm). After a number of years, the adult tree begins to grow out of the top of the juvenile shrub and then the divaricating branchlets will wither and drop off.
The adult leaves of the Matai are dark green above, with a silvery-blue undersurface and are linear to sickle-shaped 10–15 mm long and 1.5–2 mm broad. All leaves have round tips with a small point. Male cones are yellowish, scaly and about the size of the leaves, they occur on spikes from the leaf axis. Ovules on short axillary branches, 3-10 per 40 mm long spike. The fruit is a fleshy, oily, aromatic, terpene-tasting, purple-black drupe with a glaucous bloom. The stone is more or less circular (5.5-) 6-8.5 mm diameter with a surface that is dull to semi-glossy, pale orange-yellow to light orange-yellow. The seeds are dispersed by the Kereru (New Zealand Pigeon), which eats the 'berries' and passes the seeds in its droppings.
The hard timber of this tree was used extensively in New Zealand for flooring during the mid-20th century. Matai is not threatened, although as a forest-type it has been greatly reduced through widespread logging. Very few intact examples of Matai-dominated forest remain.

Photographed at Burgess Park.


Adult leaves


The top surface of adult leaves.


The underside of adult leaves.

Matai bark cimes off in thick flakes leave bark below that is bright red. As this bark gets older it turns brown,
Green crustose lichen is covering the old bark.

Another photo higher up the trunk.


A juvenile stage,  Photographed at Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton's Bush Reserve. Wellington.