Fern + Pine = Podocarpus? California Tree Series

Fern + Pine = Podocarpus?

California Tree Series

Fern pine is the common name for plant that is neither a fern nor a pine. Other common names for Podocarpus gracilior are Podocarpus, African fern pine, and yew pine.

Photo by Josh Jackson.

Podocarpus gracilior – Fern Pine – California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Podocarpus gracilor is a common exotic evergreen tree that adds a touch of softness to the landscape.

Fern pine is an adaptable evergreen trees that grows to 20 to 60 feet tall and spreads 10 to 20 feet wide at maturity.

Leaves of fern pine are needle-like but are not true needles.

Fern pines are not grown for their flowers (they are extremely tiny). male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Female plants will bear small, fleshy fruit after many years if male plants are nearby.

Landscape Use Podocarpus is often planted as screens or background plants.

Podocarpus gracilior - Fern Pine - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Fern Pine. Podocarpus gracilior in the landscape. Photo by Josh Jackson

They can be grown as:

  • street trees
  • lawn trees
  • patio specimens
  • garden trees
  • hedges or tall screens
  • large containers

Their limber branches also lend themselves to espalier.

Landscape architects like fern pine because it is one of the cleanest and most reliable trees or shrubs.

The method of propagation determines fern pine’s growth habit. Seed-grown plants are more erect than willowy cutting-grown plants.

Growing Conditions

Sun is not an issue for fern pine since it grows equally well in sun or shade.

Podocarpus gracilior - Fern Pine - California Supplemental Exam for Landscape Architects

Photo by Josh Jackson.

They do well in areas with full sun or part shade. Fern pines are tolerant of most soil types but may display signs of chlorosis in alkaline, heavy, or damp soils.

Moderate water use.

Recommended for Sunset climate zones 8-9 and 13-24.

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John is a landscape architect who is currently preparing to take the California Supplemental Exam to become licensed in California. He is currently a licensed professional landscape architect in Georgia and Florida. John graduated from California State University, Pomona with a BSLA degree in landscape architecture in 1997 and has extensive practice experience in residential and commercial landscape design.

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Posted in Plants, Trees

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