Tree to 25 m, 1.3 m dbh. Bark greyish brown, falling in thick flakes, leaving a distinct ‘hammer-mark’ pattern. Juvenile leaves to 3 cm long, narrow-linear; adult leaves sessile, 1.5–2.5 × 0.2–0.3 cm, falcate, midrib prominent, apex acute to subacute, margins recurved. Dioecious. Male cones solitary, axillary, sessile to subsessile, 0.5–1.5 cm long. Female cones solitary or rarely paired, to 2 cm long at maturity, on short branchlets to 1 cm long, the bases of which are densely covered with scales; seeds oblong to globose, covered by a fleshy, purple epimatium. Allan 1961. Distribution NEW ZEALAND: North Is., South Is., Stewart Is. Habitat Lowland forests. Seeds are distributed by the New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae). USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Lower Risk. Illustration NT18, NT656. Cross-references B285, K255 (in both cases as Podocarpus ferrugineus). Taxonomic note The epithet ferruginea refers to the rusty colour of dried herbarium specimens.
Prumnopitys ferruginea is rare in cultivation, due to its lack of hardiness and its general unavailability. It is grown in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in the British Isles specimens are scattered along the western maritime fringes, the tallest being found in the John F. Kennedy Arboretum, Co. Wexford (up to 9.5 m, measured in 2003 by Aubrey Fennell, TROBI). Hillier & Coombes (2002) recorded that it was flourishing in a garden at Helens Bay, Co. Down, but no further news of this specimen has been traced (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008). Another example, 9 m tall, was recorded on Tresco in 1970, and there are old records of small trees in Sussex gardens (TROBI), but it is not known if these still exist. At Tregrehan a specimen planted in 1995 had achieved 2.5 m in 2005. As a young plant at least, its foliage bears a strong resemblance to a Yew (Taxus baccata), and this leaf shape is maintained into adulthood – unlike in P. taxifolia where the leaves change shape as the tree matures. In cultivation P. ferruginea shows no sign of developing into the large timber tree it can become in New Zealand.