The Gymnosperm Database


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Conservation status

Austrotaxus spicata

Compton 1922

Common names

New Caledonia yew (de Laubenfels 1972).

Taxonomic notes

The sole species in Austrotaxus Compton (1922). Syn: A. spicatus (orth.).


Tree dioecious, densely branched, evergreen, 3-25 m tall. Bark fibrous, shedding in short bands or flakes, brown/red, very dark wood. Buds terminal, 3 mm in diameter by 2 mm long, globular with triangular, sharp compressed scales, the free tips crowded on the top of the buds. The outer bud scales are very long, up to 3 mm long the free tip included, leaving protruding, round characteristic marks at the base of each new growth cycle. Juvenile leaves not very different from adult leaves, 17 cm long by 0.8 cm wide, gradually becoming shorter with age. Adult leaves linear, lanceolate, spirally-arranged, 5-10 cm long by 0.35-0.5 cm wide, becoming narrower, ending in a sharp tip, more or less becoming narrower at the base till a long petiole to 8 mm long, leaf margins invert curved, the main veins on the upper leaf surface show a straight groove, on the lower leaf surface a prominent ridge. Pollen cone very small, in the scale axils, compressed to a long spike, which is produced in the scale axils of the bud at the base of each new growth cycle. Spike 10-15 mm long, with few sterile scales, overlapping at the base, also with 12-18 fertile, divergent scales about 1.5 mm long, round and pointed, with shovel-shaped scales containing 1-5 microsporophylls, each with 2-4 pollen sacs. Ovule terminal on a short shoot attached as the male cone spike and carrying several small overlapping scales, consistent with several round scales resembling the fertile male scales. Seed drupe-like, borne at the far end of a 2-3 mm long shoot, roundish, 12 mm long by 6-7 mm in diameter, with a distinct ridge across the top, surrounds the micropyle and disappears along the ridge, with at the base a protruding concave neck of 2.5 × 4 mm. The ripe fruit is formed by the seed and a fleshy orange aril which completely covers the seed except a tiny 2 mm diameter circle on the top. The entire fertile shoot is attached at its base. The species resembles Podocarpus, especially Podocarpus polyspermus, but on closer inspection is really not so similar (de Laubenfels 1972).

Distribution and Ecology

New Caledonia: 300-900 m in moist tropical forests (Vidakovic 1991). Austrotaxus spicata is quite common in the ombrophilous forests of the central and northern part of the main island at altitudes from 500 m to 1350 m above sea level. It grows on serpentine-derived soils in association with other species that are very common in the southern part of the main island, but Austrotaxus spicata is for unknown reasons absent from the south. Collection locations include: Me Amméri, 700m; Koindé (Mt. Canala), 850-900m; east of Mt. Canala, 500m; Farino, Forêt Mépéou, 500m; between Farino et Table Unio; Table Unio; below d'Ignambi, route Gomen, 1200m; col d'Ignambi, below d'Oubatche, route Gomen, 800-900m; Plateau Dogny, 800-1000m (SBT); summit above pass Roussettes (Me Maoya), 700m; col d'Amieu, Mé Ongué, 600-650m; Pic Ravaux (NW de la Foa), 900m; La Foa; Mt. Pouitchaté, below d'Atéou, between Tipindjé and Kamendoua, 700-1000m; Me Maoya, 1100-1350m; Roche Quaième, massif de Ton Non, 900-980m; height Diahot, Forêt de Tendé, 500-600m; S.E. d'Ouipouin (SW de Nakada), 800m; Mt. Panié, 800m; Dogny; Mt. Mi, Roche Quaième, 800m (de Laubenfels 1972).

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

Big tree







Compton, R. H. 1922. Journal of the Linnean Society, Bot. 45:427.

Thanks to Ferenc Kiss for translating de Laubenfels from the French (2003.06).

See also

Association Endemia, a site devoted to New Caledonian species. Has excellent photos, a range map, and other information. In French.

Dallimore et al. (1967).

Pilger, 1934. Saxton, Ann. Bot. 48 : 411.

Sarlin. 1954. Bois et Forêts de Nouvelle Calédonie : 95, tab. 33.

Silba (1986).

Vidakovic (1991).

Last Modified 2017-12-29