Scientific Name: Phyllocladus trichomanoides
Plant Type: Conifer tree, growing to a pyramidal shape, reaching 65 ft.
Environment: Partial shade, well draining soil, regular water.
Bloom: As a conifer no flowers are produced. The seed cones are berry-like, with a fleshy white aril surrounding, but not fully enclosing the single seed.
Uses: Specimen tree.
Other: In its native New Zealand, the trees produce smooth straight trunks and knot-free timber which is sought after for its strength. The bark is rich in tannin, from which the Maori extract a red dye.
Just outside the Library gate in Bed 5B, a small conifer called the celery top pine, or Phyllocladus trichomanoides, rises out of an understory of fuchsias. With pollen fossils dating back possibly as far as the Jurassic Period, between 200 and 180 million year ago, ancestors of modern-day Phyllocladus were present during the breakup of the Southern Hemisphere supercontinent Gondwana. Today, we recognize five distinct species of Phyllocladus, which have evolved on separate landmasses. New Zealand's north island has become the home of Phyllocladus trichomanoides, P. alpinus, and P. toatoa. Phyllocladus aspleniifolius is found only in Tasmania. Phyllocladus hypophyllus is present in what is now Borneo, the islands of the Celebes, New Guinea and the Philippines.
Celery top pine is a member of the Podocarpus family, the Podocarpaceae, which is mainly a southern hemisphere conifer family. The scientific name, Phyllocladus trichomanoides, can be broken down to describe the tree's unique form. "Phyllo" translates to "leaf" and "cladus" translates to "branch", the combined term referring to the tree's unique, leaf-like branches. The tree's specific epithet, or "second name", "trichomanoides", further defines the appearance of these flattened stems as fern-like, or Trichomanes-like. This namesake, Trichomanes, is a large genus of ferns found mostly in tropical areas of the world. Phyllocladus are not true pines, nor do they have recognizable leaves. What appear as leaves to us are flattened stems called phylloclades, leaf-like branches that are responsible for performing photosynthesis. These phylloclades arch gracefully off each stem in an alternating fashion. They have a dull green color and are lobed and tough. The true leaves are reduced to tiny green scales which appear along the edges of each phylloclade. These true leaves are best seen with a magnifying glass. They also photosynthesize before turning brown and falling off. The seed cones are berry-like with a fleshy covering called an "aril" (pronounced "air-ill").
Two other species grow in the Garden. Phyllocladus hypophyllus can be found in Bed 77A, and P. alpinus in Bed 75A.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text: Kathy McNeil & Corey Barnes. Profile: Mona Bourell. Photos: Joanne Taylor, Mona Bourell.