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Tree to 20–30 m. Trunk straight, to 1 m dbh or more, becoming fluted and spirally twisted. Bark yellowish grey, brown or dark grey, becoming longitudinally fissured and peeling to reveal reddish brown underbark. Branches spreading or somewhat pendulous, densely covered in foliage. Leaves opposite or spirally arranged, pendulous, 9–17 0.65–1 cm, more or less linear and somewhat falcate, tapering to apex and base, shiny dark green. Male cones in clusters of one to five, erect, 3 0.4 cm, pink; female cones with smallish receptacle that remains bluish green. Seeds ovoid, 2.5 2 cm, green. Coates Palgrave 1990. Distribution MALAWI; SOUTH AFRICA: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal; TANZANIA. Habitat Moist montane forests and occasionally coastal forests. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration Coates Palgrave 1990; NT638. Cross-reference K255 (as P. ensiculus), K256.
The long, pendulous and shiny leaves make Podocarpus henkelii an extremely attractive evergreen tree, a virtue recognised by its acceptance into mainstream horticulture in southern California and its native South Africa. It is established in cultivation in southwestern England, and is flourishing in a garden in northern Wales (Chamberlain 2008). Young trees are easily obtainable from British nurseries. At Tregrehan, Tom Hudson (pers. comm. 2005) has noted that it flushes later in the year than P. latifolius and is therefore more likely to avoid spring frosts. The new shoots of all Podocarpus are apt to be a lighter, brighter shade of green than the mature foliage, but in this species they may be tinged pink or red, and in one clone available in New Zealand new growth is lemon-yellow (Cedar Lodge Nursery 2002–2008).