Tree to 20 m tall, to 1.8 m dbh. Bark grey and fibrous in mature trees. Branchlets grooved, glabrous. Terminal buds globose, c. 4 mm in diameter, with imbricate, blunt-tipped, triangular or rounded scales. Leaves leathery, petiolate, spirally arranged, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, (3–)5–12 × 0.8–1.5 cm; midrib acutely raised above, at least 0.5 mm wide, more or less flattened below; mid-green above, pale green below with very small stomata in irregular bands either side of midrib; margins slightly thickened especially below but not revolute; base attenuate or cuneate to short-petiolate (to 5 mm), apex obtuse or rarely acute; young foliage pale green or flushed reddish-pink. Pollen cones solitary or in clusters of 2–3, long-cylindrical and lax at maturity, 20–40 × 2–3 mm. Seed cones solitary, axillary, on peduncles 2–12 mm long; receptacle 4–9 × 3–6 mm, subtended by 1(–2) linear bracts 10–14 mm long, glaucous before maturity, ripening through yellow to red. Seeds solitary, ovoid to ellipsoid-ovoid, covered in a greenish or pruinose epimatium, ripening blackish-blue, 8–9 × 6 mm. (Farjon 2017; Fu, Li & Mill 1999).
Distribution Taiwan Nantou and Taichung Counties, possibly Chianghua County
Habitat An occasional component of mixed forests in central Taiwan at c. 700–1800 m asl, dominated by members of the Fagaceae, Lauraceae, and Theaceae and characterised by a warm-temperate monsoon climate.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Endangered (EN)
Podocarpus nakaii is yet another entity belonging to the species complex orbiting P. macrophyllus. Endemic to Taiwan, it is most readily distinguished from P. macrophyllus by its solitary or 2–3-clustered pollen clones (cf. 3–5) and usually wider leaves, but the overlap in characters has seen this taxon reduced to a variety of P. macrophyllus in the past (Farjon 2017). We follow Plants of the World Online (2023), Farjon (2017) and Flora of China (1999) in acknowledging its disjunct distribution and give it the benefit of the doubt, treating it at species rank as Hayata first described it in 1916.
P. nakaii has a very limited presence in cultivation in the temperate zone. It was targeted by the Edinburgh Taiwan Expedition of 1993 which introduced material under ETE 624; two plants from this collection were grown outdoors at Bedgebury National Pinetum (Kent, UK) but these have since died (D. Luscombe pers. comm.); additional clones are maintained under glass at Edinburgh. Outwith our area, it is grown outdoors at the Montgomery Botanical Center, Florida (USDA zone 10) (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2023).