Podocarps are a genus of conifers with over a hundred species found all over the world, many of which have become popular landscape standards. One of the lesser known, but most beautiful, is the Willowleaf podocarp, or Podocarpus salignus. This is a large, conical tree native to Chile with handsome, bluish-green leaves with a chartreuse underside.  With maturity the branch tips hang languidly causing the long leaves to weep much like a weeping willow, hence the common name, willowleaf. This podocarp is considered to be one of the most elegant conifers available. Its appeal is so noteworthy that The Royal Horticultural Society has given it an Award of Garden Merit (AGM). And yet, it is hardly ever encountered. Yet another gardening mystery.

Willow leaved podocarp not only has some of the most beautiful foliage of any conifer but the large, spreading branches and trunk are covered by a bright, cinnamon bark.  The flowers are typically podocarp, greenish-yellow, giving way to lovely violet fruit in autumn. But the tree is dioecious, meaning male or female, and if you want fruit you will need to plant one of each. Willowleaf podocarp grows rapidly in youth and then tapers off in middle-age. It eventually will reach 40 feet with a spread half its height. This ornamental conifer is mildly cold tolerant, to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers acidic, moist soils and is somewhat shade tolerant in warm summer areas. It does well across the southern half of the US, especially the high rainfall southeast, and across most of the UK, New Zealand and parts of Australia. As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

Willowleaf podocarp


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