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

Podocarpus totara (Lowland totara)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Podocarpaceae
Genus: Podocarpus
Species: P. totara
Scientific name: Podocarpus totara
Common name: Lowland Totara, Totara

Podocarpus totara (totara) is a conifer reaching 30m high and has a diameter of up to 2.5m through. It has a wide distribution in n lowland to montane forests of the North, South, and Stewart Islands. It has thick stringy bark and its leaves are a very dark green-brownish colour and are 13-25 mm long, linear and sharp pointed.
New Zealand Totara is Podocarp tree with separate sexes. The male tree has pollen cones, which develop in spring (October) at the ends of the old stems and are in groups of 1-3. New cones are green, but turn brown as they open and release pollen. New leaves, with a lighter green colour, develop from the tips of the stems, just beyond the cones.
The female fruit is a rounded green seed (4-5 mm) which sits on a red smooth succulent receptacle.

The Maoris prized this forest tree more highly than any other because of the remarkable qualities of its timber. The heartwood is very durable and the Maoris found the wood could be readily split and shaped with primitive stone tools for canoes, building, and carving. The same properties made it a valuable timber to the first European settlers for house and wharf piles, house frames and for durable things such as fence posts, bridges, railway sleepers. Present use only for Maori cultural uses. 

A mature tree photographed at Anzac Park, Norsewood.

Photographed at Koromiko south of Picton. 

Podocarpus totara leaves

Male cones.

Fruiting tree (March)

Foliage and fruit.

The green fruit (4mm) on the bright red peduncle which is typical of this genus.The red peduncle is edible and is sweet in taste.

The reddish-grey bark of the totara is thick, corky, furrowed and stringy.

A large multitrunked Podocarpus totara photographed at Anzac Park, Norsewood.

Podocarpus totara (Lowland totara) can be distinguished from Podocarpus cunninghamii (Mountain totara) by the shape and size of its resting bud. See photos below.

A bud of Podocarpus totara (Lowland totara)

A bud of Podocarpus cunninghamii (Mountain totara)

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/