Decumbent or erect shrubs, or trees to 25 m × 0.6 m dbh. Crown spreading, irregular. Bark fibrous, flaking in longitudinal strips. Branches ascending or spreading in trees; more variable in shrubs. Branchlets slender, smooth. Terminal buds 3–4 mm long, with erect to slightly spreading triangular to lanceolate scales, to 4 mm long. Leaves variable depending on the form of the plant; shrubs, juvenile trees and shade branches of adult trees bear larger leaves than branches of adult trees in full sun. Leaves on shrubs etc. to 7 × 1.2 cm, base and apex tapering; leaves on trees etc. linear-elliptic to oblong, (1.5–)2.5–5 × 0.4–0.7(–1) cm, usually widest above the middle, base tapering, short petiolate, slightly twisted, margins slightly revolute, apex variable, usually blunt but often acute on leaves in full sun. Upper surface with midrib acutely raised, very narrow; lower surface with midrib flattened or obtusely raised, to 1 mm wide, with two broad stomatal bands. Pollen cones solitary, cylindrical, 15–30 × c. 3 mm at maturity, on a 2–4 mm peduncle. Seed cones solitary, pedunculate; receptacle 10–12 mm, subtended by 2 bracts 1.5–2 mm long, greenish-yellow at first, ripening bright red to purple. Seeds ovoid to globose, covered in a glaucous-green epimatium, purplish-green at maturity, 10–12 × 8–9 mm. (Farjon 2017; Fu, Li & Mill 1999).
Distribution Cambodia China Hainan, Guangxi, S Yunnan Indonesia Kalimantan, Maluku, Sulawesi, West New Guinea Laos Malaysia Borneo Philippines Vietnam
Habitat Montane forest to subalpine scrub, (700–)1200–3300 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 9
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note We follow Plants of the World Online (2022) in treating Podocarpus wangii C.C. Chang as synonymous with P. pilgeri. The authors of the Flora of China account recognise P. wangii and refer Chinese populations of P. pilgeri to that species (Fu, Li & Mill 1999).
Podocarpus pilgeri is cultivated outdoors in our area at Tregrehan, where it was planted c. 2010 and by 2017 was beginning to grow well (Smith & Hudson 2017). When seen during research for this account in July 2022 the plants were forming upright shrubs; their rate of growth was modest but their overall health was good, and the youngest foliage still retained a pinkish hue. This pink colouration of the new foliage is most pronounced in spring, when it can be very vivid (T. Hudson pers. comm. and see image). No other plants have been traced growing outdoors in our area, but it is maintained under glass at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from collections made in Vietnam in 2002 under NVFDE 169 and 170; the same collections are grown at Montgomery Botanical Centre in Florida (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 2023). Given the experience at Tregrehan it would be worthwhile experimenting with this species in other mild UK gardens and further north on the US east coast.