Tree 20–35 m tall, 1–1.5 m dbh. Bark smooth, reddish-brown at first, fissured and dark grey on old stems. Branches spreading; crown broad-pyramidal. Branchlets finely grooved. Terminal buds of leading shoots subglobose to ovoid, c. 4 mm across with imbricate, triangular, keeled, acute scales 2–3 mm long; buds of lateral shoots much smaller. Leaves of established trees lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, 4–10 × 0.6–1.4 cm, largest on shaded shoots (much larger on juvenile plants, to 16 × 1.8 cm), straight to slightly curved, base tapering, short-petiolate, margins ± parallel in middle of lamina, apex acute to acuminate or rarely obtuse; upper surface with midrib minutely raised along the full length of the lamina; lower surface with a more prominent, more obtusely raised midrib along the entire length of the lamina, with two stomatal bands either side. Pollen cones solitary, sessile, cylindrical, 10–15 mm long at maturity. Seed cones short-pedunculate, with 2 bracts which fuse to become a swollen, fleshy receptacle, 6–8 mm long, ripening maroon to reddish-brown. Seed including the epimatium ellipsoid, grey-brown, 7–8 × 5 mm long. (Farjon 2017).
Distribution Belize Colombia Costa Rica Ecuador Cordillera del Condor El Salvador Guatemala Honduras Mexico Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz Panama Venezuela Cordillera Oriental, Selvas de Guatopo
Habitat In a diverse range of habitats over an enormous range, from streamsides in lowland savanna with Pinus oocarpa and P. caribaea, to montane tropical forests. Most common below c. 1200 m asl but to a limit of c. 2600 m asl.
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
A rare example of a ‘new tree’ that slipped through the net and was not covered by Grimshaw & Bayton (2009), Podocarpus guatemalensis was at the time, and remains, represented in UK cultivation by very few specimens, perhaps even just one. Material was introduced to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in 1993, collected in Veracruz, Mexico. Young plants were dispatched to a handful of sites participating in RBGE’s International Conifer Conservation Programme, primarily in the mild coastal districts of Cornwall and south Devon. By the early 2000s the only confirmed survivors were two in a public park in Torbay, and another on the campus on the University of the Arts in Falmouth. Only the Torbay plants have been relocated since 2002, in 2018 (pers. obs.) when one was a single-stemmed plant only a few metres tall, growing in the understorey of an unmanaged area of sycamore woodland; a similarly sized plant in a different wooded area had died, but a root sucker was beginning to take its place. Efforts are underway to repropagate both.