Scientific Name: Dacrydium cupressinum
Common Name: Rimu, Red Pine
Plant Type: Tree
Environment: Slow to establish, with a long juvenile period, requiring fairly high moisture.
Bloom: Instead of a hard cone like true pines produce, these trees produce a berry-like cone. Male and female cones produced on separate trees.
Uses:Accent tree. In its native habitat it is long lived and may reach 200 feet.
Dacrydium can be found in: New Zealand Garden beds (42D, 42F, 42H, 62A, 63A, 66C)
You may have walked down the Axis Lawn and passed this New Zealand conifer many times without noticing it. Take a moment to appreciate its distinctive foliage, mottled bark, and bright cones, and you’ll get to know a stately tree that matures along with you and will watch after the garden for hundreds of years.
Dacrydium cupressinum is a beautiful, long-lived tree with a straight, tapering trunk and dark, flaking bark. Young trees, such as ours at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, have graceful, weeping branches covered in scale-like leaves that will transition to bare trunks with smaller leaves as they age.
These titans of New Zealand’s hardwood forests can live up to 1,000 years and reach heights of 200 feet. The trees are dioecious, meaning male and female cones are found on separate trees.
As a member of Podocarpaceae, Dacrydium cupressinum has a unique cone structure for a gymnosperm. Instead of a hard cone like the pine cones most are familiar with, male trees produce a berry-like cone that is dispersed by the animals that eat it. The fleshy cones it produces is not technically a botanical fruit—a hallmark of the angiosperms. Instead, this gymnosperm convergently evolved to reward animal partners for seed dispersal by offering them a tasty morsel. It’s not only the birds and lizards that use this plant for nutrition—when Captain James Cook chartered the coast of New Zealand for the British Admiralty in 1789, he made “spruce beer” for his crew from the young rimu branches as a preventative for scurvy!
While this species is not rated as threatened by the IUCN Red List, New Zealand’s podocarp-hardwood forests have diminished due to widespread logging and land clearance.
They struggle to revive due to invasive introductions of both weedy plants and destructive mammals such as deer, sheep and opossum. The introduction of new laws preventing felling for timber on public lands and restricting it on private lands may help the rimu return to historic population levels. The San Francisco Botanical Garden’s oldest specimen of Dacrydium cupressinum was a gift from the New Zealand government. After the close of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a donation of 150 plants was made to Golden Gate Park from the New Zealand Pavilion, including a young red pine.
Come visit this tree where it presides over the Axis Lawn or look for younger specimens throughout the New Zealand Garden!