The real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius) is one of South Africa ‘s most valued timber trees. It is also South Africa ‘s National Tree.
We are very lucky to have a beautiful Yellowwood forest on our reserve and some growing in small patches else where too.
The Yellowwood is a slow-growing, usually large, evergreen tree, which grows to between 20 and 30 m in height.
The wood is yellow and the bark is greyish and smooth when young but shows longitudinal fissures as it matures. The bark peels off in strips.
The glossy green leaves are long and narrow. The leaves on young trees are always larger than on mature trees.
There are male and female trees. The male cones (July to September) resemble catkins (an inflorescence adapted for wind pollination, while the female tree develops round, grey/blue seeds on thickened, fleshy, stalks known as receptacles, which as they mature, turn purple (December to February).
When the berry-like receptacles ripen, birds such as pigeons and turacos feed on them. They are also eaten by monkeys, bushpigs and sometimes by people.
The genus and species names are derived from Greek words, podo which means foot, carpus which means fruit, lati which means wide and folius which means leaf. Podocarpaceae is a small cone-bearing family, which, along with the indigenous cedars, represent the small number of coniferous tree species indigenous to South Africa.
The Yellowwood is protected in South Africa .
In the past, they were so sought after as timber trees, that from being an abundant resource they became almost extinct in some areas.
The real yellowwood has apparently been used more than any other South African timber. Floors in the old Cape homesteads were made of this wood. The South African Railways used to use the timber to make railway sleepers. In the old days it was used to make wagon boxes.
An unusual use was that of a butcher’s block because the wood is hard and did not chip easily. It also has no scent, so it did not taint the meat.
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