Tōtara

Podocarpus totara var. totara

(previously known as Podocarpus totara)

Tōtara / Lowland Tōtara

ABOUT:
A majestic tree favoured by Māori for waka carving, as well as for construction of marae and their carved pillars. The thick spongy bark of the male tree was peeled off in large strips and had many uses, including in medicine, fashioning utensils utensils, and for covering houses. Fruit were also collected for eating.
This is a native that has been proposed for use in forestry, but is yet to be significantly taken-up.

IDENTIFY:     
A tall tree, 10m high after 15 years, with flakey bark and sharp, green needles as leaves. Needles are longer and further apart on twigs of young saplings. Weeping and Golden forms have also come into use in public and private plantings. The fruit is a small green seed sitting atop an orange fleshy “foot”.

USE:
A good tree for providing vertical strength due to its solid and visible trunk. It trims well, so makes for a good hedge or shelter-belt. In a grove setting, best interplanted with other tree species otherwise the canopy will block out light excessively. Fallen needles create a suitable place for successive plants to establish.
Mature trees remove a lot of moisture from the soil, so best not to plant where a lush garden below is anticipated.

PLANT:
Tolerates light shade, wind and frost. Plant with protection when young. Prefers moist soils while establishing. Young plants usually need staking.

SIMILAR TO:     
Westland Tōtara (Podocarpus totara v. waihoensis) – multiple trunk, suckering from base. Branches are slender and needles are sharper.
Mountain Tōtara (Podocarpus cunninghamii) – leaf-bud is green and wider than the twig. Bark is more thin and papery.
Needle-leaved Tōtara (Podocarpus acutifolius) – shrubby, multi-trunked and suckering. Leaves are much sharper.

ECOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE:     
Tōtara fruits year-round, providing a valuable food source for native birds including kereru, tui, bellbird, kaka and kakariki. Fruit production peaks in April-May.

MORE INFO:
The Gymnosperm Database – Podocarpus totara
Taranaki Educational Resource – Lowland Totara
NZ Plant Conservation Network – Totara
NZ Totara – Totara Timber

 

 

 

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