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Podocarpus

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Occurring in Eastern Australia with disjunct occurrences on Blackdown Tableland, Cooloola and Moreton Bay islands (Queensland) and mid-north coast, Sydney area and far south coast (New South Wales).

Podocarpus is a genus of conifers consisting of about 100 species and distributed in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Southern Hemisphere. Podocarpus are evergreen shrubs or trees generally from 1 to 25 meters tall, they they have been known to reach 40 metres at times. The leaves are 0.5–15 cm long with a distinct midrib. They are arranged spirally, though in some species twisted to appear in two horizontal ranks. There are approximately 104 to 107 species in the genus.

There are about six species of Podocarpus found in Australia. The best known is probably the plum pine, Podocarpus elatus, a large tree found in New South Wales and Queensland.

Conifers belong to the group of non-flowering plants known as Gymnosperms. These produce “cones” rather than flowers and they are “naked seeded” in that seeds are not enclosed in an ovary as in the flowering plants. The cones have two to five fused scales, of which only one, rarely two, are fertile, each fertile scale has one apical seed. At maturity, the scales become berry-like, swollen, brightly coloured red to purple and fleshy, and are eaten by birds which then disperse the seeds in their droppings. The male cones are 5 to 20 mm long, often clustered several together.

Podocarpus is a characteristic tree of the Antarctic flora, which originated in the cool, moist climate of southern Gondwana, and elements of the flora survive in the humid temperate regions of the former supercontinent. As the continents drifted north and became drier and hotter, Podocarps and other members of the Antarctic flora generally retreated to humid regions, especially in Australia, where schlerophyll genera like Acacia and Eucalyptus became predominant.

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