Podocarpus matudae Lundell

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Credits

Tom Christian (2023)

Recommended citation
Christian, T. (2023), 'Podocarpus matudae' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/podocarpus/podocarpus-matudae/). Accessed 2024-03-04.

Synonyms

  • Podocarpus reichei J. Buchholz & N.E. Gray
  • Podocarpus matudae var. reichei (J. Buchholz & N.E. Gray) de Laub. & Silba
  • Podocarpus matudae var. macrocarpus J. Buchholz & N.E. Gray

Glossary

article
(in Casuarinaceae) Portion of branchlet between each whorl of leaves.
asl
Above sea-level.
included
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
montane
Of mountains.
taxonomy
Classification usually in a biological sense.

Credits

Tom Christian (2023)

Recommended citation
Christian, T. (2023), 'Podocarpus matudae' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/podocarpus/podocarpus-matudae/). Accessed 2024-03-04.

Tree to >30 m, trunk straight, to 1.5 m dbh. Bark thin, smooth and pale brown in young trees, with age becoming scaly, brownish-grey. Branches ascending at first, soon spreading; crown of mature trees broad, domed. Branchlets slender, straight, finely grooved. Terminal buds 8–12 mm long with ± spreading long acuminate scales, lateral buds much smaller, 3–4 mm long. Leaves of established trees leathery, narrowly lanceolate, 5–14 × 0.8–1.3 cm, largest on shaded shoots (and much larger on juvenile plants, to 20 × 1.7 cm), straight to slightly curved, base tapering, short-petiolate, apex gradually tapering to an acute-acuminate apex; upper surface dark green with a narrow but prominent midrib in lower half of lamina, sometimes grooved; lower surface dull green, midrib obscure, sometimes grooved, with two stomatal bands either side. Pollen cones sessile, solitary, rarely in pairs, cylindrical, 30–45 × 4–5 mm. Seed cones solitary on short peduncles 4–12 mm long, with two bracts which fuse to become a swollen, fleshy receptacle 4–12 mm long, maturing red then purplish-brown. Seed including the epimatium broad-ovoid, dark brown when ripe, 8–12 mm long. (Farjon 2017; Grimshaw & Bayton 2009).

Distribution  El Salvador (?) GuatemalaMexico Chiapas, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Veracruz

Habitat Mixed pine-hardwood-podocarpus forests on moist slopes, between (600–)1000 and 2600(–3500) m asl.

USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9

Taxonomic note Podocarpus matudae has a complicated history of infraspecific taxonomy and nomenclature. It has recently been revised as part of Robert Mill’s series of monographic revisions of the genus, with Mill recognising only the nominate subsp. matudae (discussed below, and in which he includes P. reichei) and subsp. jaliscanus (de Laub. & Silba) Silba (Mill 2015). Plants of the World Online has adopted this taxonomy (2023).

As the most northerly mainland podocarp in the New World, and an important timber tree within its native range (Auders & Spicer 2012), Podocarpus matudae has been introduced to North American horticulture several times. During research for New Trees plants were reported from collections in California and Oregon, principally under the defunct name P. reichei, and at Tregrehan in Cornwall. When seen the Tregrehan trees were ‘flourishing and really look as if they want to succeed, forming exceptionally attractive specimens in damp ground in the valley bottom’ (Grimshaw & Bayton 2009).

The oldest trees at Tregrehan date to 1995; they were raised from seed gathered at 1415 m asl in Tamaulipas, Mexico, by Bob Nicholson, then of New York Botanical Garden (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2022). The largest was 4 m tall in 2006 (Johnson 2007), 7 m tall in 2014 (Tree Register 2023), and approaching 10 m in 2022 (pers. obs.); although their growth rates are slowing with age they remain remarkably beautiful trees with bold yet elegant foliage giving a tropical effect. The regular production of female cones adds to their interest, but for many years these were infertile and remained green as the original group was exclusively female; the planting was supplemented in 2007 when trees raised from MF 138 were added (‘after it became apparent it was worth growing’ quips Hudson!) This second planting included males and the original trees now produce fertile female cones with the swollen, red, fleshy receptacles characteristic of the genus (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2023).

Despite its obvious potential Podocarpus matudae has not been widely planted in Britain, but here is a species that deserves to have its limits pushed and its profile raised in gardens. Tom Hudson included it in his ‘top three’ species in a 2017 article, and noted that at Tregrehan plants have withstood –7°C unscathed. A young plant at Logan Botanic Garden in SW Scotland, raised from a Jim Priest collection, is establishing well (pers. obs. 2022). John Anderson, the adventurous keeper of the gardens in the Royal Landscape at Windsor, planted two in 2021 and it will be interesting to follow their progress in this increasingly warm and dry part of the UK. Plants from Priest 12, collected in Mexico in 1984, are grown at Kew and in Ray Wood, Castle Howard, but the field notes paint a confusing picture, suggesting a mixed collection including from cultivated plants both in Veracruz and Tabasco States made between 5 October and 2 November 1984.

Podocarpus matudae has benefited from wider distribution in North America, where it is more frequent (but still not common) in collections, and occasionally offered for sale by specialist nurseries (often still as P. reichei).

Podocarpus matudae was named after the Japanese-born botanist Eizi Matuda (1894–1978) who spent the latter part of his career in Mexico. Along with species such as Drimys granadensis, Magnolia sharpii and Persea americana it is an indicator species of Mexican montane cloud forest (Mill 2015).

Identification key


subsp. jaliscanus (de Laub. & Silba) Silba

Synonyms
Podocarpus matudae var. jaliscanus de Laub. & Silba

Differing most obviously from subsp. matudae in its vegetative buds, 5–6.5 mm and composed of c. 6 keeled scales (cf. >7 mm and composed of 8–12 scales that are not or indistinctly keeled). (Mill 2015).

Distribution

  • Mexico – Jalisco

Subsp. jaliscanus occurs in an area known for high levels of plant endemism (Mill 2015). Among the conifers alone, taxa such as Abies flinckii, A. guatemalensis subsp. jaliscana, Pinus georginae and P. jaliscana are endemic here (Debreczy & Rácz 2011). Rich floristic diversity and high endemism has long attracted collectors to the region, and while P. matudae subsp. jaliscanus is not reported from collections within our area, it would be surprising if it was not being grown somewhere simply as ‘P. matudae’ or under an erroneous name.