The Gymnosperm Database


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Page 1989

Common names

None. The genus name translates as "African fruit," not very helpful in any effort to fabricate a common name.

Taxonomic notes

Page (1989) segregated this genus of species formerly assigned to Podocarpus, mainly based on the absence of a fleshy receptacle at the base of the seed and on chromosome number. Subsequent morphological and molecular analyses (Kelch 1988, Conran et al. 2000, Sinclair et al. 2002, Biffin et al. 2011) have supported it as a distinct genus, most closely allied to Nageia. The "Bayesian molecular clock" analysis of Biffin et al. (2011) suggests that Afrocarpus shares a common ancestor with Nageia about 35 million years ago and was united with the genera Nageia, Podocarpus and Retrophyllum in a large and well-supported clade dating to about 65 million years ago.

Afrocarpus has five species in this treatment. None of the five have infraspecific taxa, and they are nonetheless clearly distinct in their distribution and morphology.


Dioecious evergreen trees. Bark thin, becoming scaly. Leaves spirally inserted or opposite on young plants, flattened, coriaceous, lanceolate with a midrib, stomata on both surfaces. Pollen cones axillary, solitary or in groups of 2-3 on short peduncles, cylindrical, catkin-like; microsporophylls spirally inserted, each with 2 pollen sacs; bisaccate pollen. Seed cones axillary or below foliar leaves on a short peduncle, consisting of several small sterile bracts and one larger fertile bract with an inverted ovule. Seeds one per cone, subtended by small scales (not a receptacle, as in Podocarpus), entirely enclosed by a fleshy epimatium, maturing to a shade of brown; the seed with a hard seed coat (Farjon 2010).

Distribution and Ecology

Burundi, Congo Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda (Farjon 2010). The species occur in widely varying ecological settings.

Big tree

Probably A. falcatus.





See the species descriptions.



Biffin, E., T.J. Brodribb, R.S. Hill, P. Thomas, and A.J. Lowe. 2011. Leaf evolution in Southern Hemisphere conifers tracks the angiosperm ecological radiation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0559 (published online).

Conran, J.G., G.M. Woods, P.G. Martin, J.M. Dowd, C.J. Quinn, P.A. Gadek and R.A. Price. 2000. Generic relationships within and between the gymnosperm families Podocarpaceae and Phyllocladaceae based on an analysis of the chloroplast gene rbcL. Australian Journal of Botany 48:715–724.

Kelch, D.G. 1998. Phylogeny of Podocarpaceae: comparison of evidence from morphology and 18S rDNA. American Journal of Botany 85(7):986–996.

Sinclair, W.T., R.R. Mill, M.F. Gardner, P. Woltz, T. Jaffré, J. Preston, M.L. Hollingsworth, A. Ponge and M. Möller. 2002. Evolutionary relationships of the New Caledonian heterotrophic conifer, Parasitaxus usta (Podocarpaceae), inferred from chloroplast trnL-F intron/spacer and nuclear rDNA ITS2 sequences. Plant Systematics and Evolution 233:79–104.

See also

Barker, N.P., E.M. Muller, and R.R. Mill. 2004. A yellowwood by any other name: molecular systematics and the taxonomy of Podocarpus and the Podocarpaceae in southern Africa. South African Journal of Science 100:629-632.

Last Modified 2017-12-29