The Gymnosperm Database


Bark, foliage and immature fruits on a tree in the Sydney Botanical Garden [C.J. Earle, 1996].


Fruit, 19 mm diameter, from a tree in the Los Angeles Arboretum [C.J. Earle].


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Conservation status 2010: protocol 2.3, needs updating

Afrocarpus falcatus

(Thunb.) C.N. Page 1989

Common names

Outeniqua yellowwood (Palmer 1972), Outeniekwa geelhout [Afrikaans], Mogôbagôba [Sepedi], Umkhoba [IsiXhosa], Umsonti [IsiZulu] (DWAF 2006).

Taxonomic notes


The species is very similar in appearance and ecology to Afrocarpus gracilior, which occupies similar habitats at more tropical latitudes. Some authorities synonymize A. gracilior under A. falcatus. The case of Podocarpus gaussenii is unusual; it was described from a single cultivated specimen in Madagascar, but has since been reassigned as a somewhat unusual specimen of A. falcatus (Farjon 2010).


Trees 10-25(-60) m tall and up to 210 cm dbh, often with a clear bole of more than 20 m. Bark gray, often purplish, smooth at first, later flaking in rectangular to rounded plates. Twigs round or quadrangular, ridged by decurrent leaf bases. Terminal buds about 1 mm diameter; outer bud scales narrowly triangular, 2-2.5 mm long and 1 mm wide. Juvenile leaves opposite, linear-lanceolate, up to 12 cm × 6 mm. Adult leaves spirally inserted, linear-lanceolate, (1-)2-4(-4.5) cm × (1.2-)2-4(-6) mm, midrib on lower surface and very slightly raised on upper surface; stomata present on both surfaces, arranged in 14-20 ± distinct longitudinal lines on either side of midrib. Pollen cones in groups of 1-4, subsessile, catkin-like, 5-13 × 2-3.5 mm, brownish; microsporophylls broadly triangular-trullate, 0.6-0.8 mm long and 0.8-1.4 mm wide, each bearing two pollen sacs 0.6-0.7 mm long and about 0.3-0.4 mm in diameter. Seed cones solitary on scaly or leafy branches 7-27 mm long and 1.5-2.5 mm in diameter; only the terminal scale fertile; epimatium verrucose, globose to obovoid, 12-18 mm long, glaucous to gray-green, ripening to a yellow- or light red-brown. Seed entirely enclosed by epimatium, globose, 10-12 (-14) mm diameter with a hard smooth seed coat 1-2 mm thick (Leistner 1966).

It closely resembles A. gracilior, which has slightly bigger leaves (mostly 3-6 cm long), and slightly larger (to 18 mm long), oval cones with smooth skin, while A. falcatus has spherical cones with verrucose skin (like an orange) (Farjon 2010).

Distribution and Ecology

South Africa. "This, the tallest member of the genus in Southern Africa, occurs in coastal and montane forests from the Swellendam district in the Cape to the northern Transvaal and southern Mozambique. It is much less common than P. latifolius and apparently is only rarely dominant" (Leistner 1966). Occurs at elevations of 1670 ± 405 m. Within its range, mean annual temperature is 16.9°C, with an average minimum in the coldest month of 8.3°C, and a mean annual precipitation of 1097 mm (Biffin et al. 2011, Table S5).

Zone 10 (cold hardiness limit between -1°C and +4.4°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

This species includes the largest known podocarps outside of New Zealand (where Podocarpus totara is substantially larger, while Dacrycarpus dacrydioides and Dacrydium cupressinum are taller but more slender). Some of the largest trees in South Africa have been designated by the Department of Water and Forests as Champion Trees. They include the following:

One of the most remarkable of the big trees is the tree in Ethiopia named Awliyaw. This is a good name for a tree; it is an Arabic word meaning "trusted one," and is customarily used to refer to Islamic elders. Pankhurst (2000) relates a visit to this tree in about 1999. He states that he measured the tree as having a girth of 12.7 meters, but does not state whether this is measured at breast height. He also assigns it a height of 63 m and an age of 700 years, both statements without any supporting data. Still, it would be interesting to learn how large this tree really is. It is described as being located in southern Wello, in a tiny forest (53 ha) called Anabe, 30 km to the W of the town of Gerba, which is on the Kombolcha - Bati road. If anyone has the opportunity, please check it out and let me know what you find.


Reaches a maximum age of about 700 years (von Breitenbach 1974, cited in Dyer 1982).




See Big tree for some specific locations. A. falcatus is a fairly common tree in its native range, and I have seen it as an occasional ornamental in New South Wales and southern California.


Monkeys and birds are reported to eat the fruit (Leistner 1966).


Department of Water and Forests. 2006.12.06. National Forests Act (8411998): Declaration of particular trees and particular group of trees "Champion Trees" under section 12 (1) (a)a nd (b) of the Act. Government Gazette 29452: 3--5. Available:, accessed 2008.09.12, now defunct.

Dyer, T. G. J. 1982. Southern Africa. Pp. 82-83 in M.K. Hughes, P.M. Kelly, J.R. Pilcher, and V.C. LaMarche Jr. (eds.), Climate from tree rings. London: Cambridge University Press.

Leistner, O.A. 1966. Podocarpaceae. Pp. 34-41 in L.E. Codd, B. De Winter and H.B. Rycrodt (eds.), Flora of Southern Africa, Volume I. Republic of South Africa Department on Agricultural Technical Services (as P. falcatus).

von Breitenbach, F. 1974. Southern Cape Forests and Trees. Pretoria: Government Printer.

See also

The PROTA database account for this species (accessed 2015.02.01). PROTA accounts are focused on commercial forest uses in Africa, and typically include photographs, drawings, names, distribution, and a variety of information relevant to management of the species.

Last Modified 2017-12-29