Shrub usually to 1.5 m tall; exceptionally to 3 m, rather lax, spreading, layering. Bark thin, fibrous, often stringy. Branchlets slender, smooth with narrow grooves, the youngest shoots weakly ridged between grooves. Terminal buds 2–4 mm long, bud scales narrowly triangular, apices free, spreading. Leaves of juvenile and adult plants very similar, linear-lanceolate, 25–75 × 2–4.5 mm, midrib minutely raised above, more obvious beneath, blade green to yellow-green above, undersides glaucous green with prominent stomatal bands; base gradually tapering, subsessile; apex tapering, acute, pungent. Pollen cones solitary or in clusters of 2–5 on a common peduncle 1–4 mm long, cylindrical, 4–8 × 1.5–2.5 mm at maturity. Seed cones solitary, on peduncles 5–10 mm long subtended by reduced leaves, with two narrowly lanceolate bracts which fuse to become a swollen, fleshy, purple receptacle 6–10 × 6–7 mm when ripe, subtended by a single ovoid seed, 8–10 × 5–7 mm. (Farjon 2017).
Distribution Australia New South Wales, Queensland
Habitat Sandy or otherwise nutrient deficient soils from 0–900 m asl. Near the ocean it occurs in coastal shrubland or in stabilised dune systems. Inland it is found in dry sclerophyll forest with Angophora, Casaurina and Eucalyptus species.
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Material labelled Podocarpus spinulosus has been circulating in UK and Irish gardens for some years, but this represents an unknown hybrid probably involving P. laetus or P. totara and another shrubby species (pers. obs.). These plants typically form upright shrubs with ascending branches and clustered branchlets; the leaves are rather short, yellowish near the base but glaucous near the apex. Much and perhaps all of this material is clonal, including plants distributed by Bedgebury National Pinetum under their accession 20030975, and subsequently by the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre under their accession 20190216, which is all traceable to an older plant at Rowallane, Northern Ireland, the origins of which are unclear (A. Crook & D. Luscombe pers. comms. 2023).
Genuine P. spinulosus is native to coastal habitats in subtropical eastern Australia and is very unlikely to be hardy in our area (Farjon 2017). The material circulating in gardens described above will be named as a cultivar soon, when this entry will be updated.