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Fern Yew ( Podocarpus gracilor)

This yew is one of our favorites.  It is a small evergreen tree that makes a beautiful specimen in a pot or in the ground.  It can grow to 40′ unless trimmed shorter.  The soft foliage forms a dense rounded crown with graceful, slightly weeping branches. Grey green narrow leaves have a pleasing fern like appearance.

houston tree

Few trees offer such lovely color and soft cloud-like foliage. Grow as a beautiful street tree in warmer climates. Try it as a year-round screen on property lines or against poor views of industrial or commercial areas. Good single shade tree for front or backyard, but avoid planting in lawns, put it in a small raised bed in the yard. Most compatible as a single specimen with semitropical landscapes. Also great as contrast against the bright stucco walls of modern or postmodern architecture. Also makes a good container-grown topiary tree for formal landscaping around porches or patios and entries. Do not plant Podocarpus under the eaves of houses; they will easily outgrow the roof.

This is an unusual genus of plants that is closely related to conifers but is in its own family, the Podocarpaceae. The genus was classified by French botanist Charles L’Hertier de Brutelle, 1746-1800, who named it from the Greek for foot and fruit to describe its large berries. The genus contains about 90 species confined mainly to the Southern, Hemisphere, and this species is native to tropical Africa. It was classified by the German Robert Pilger in the early 20th century. This is likely among the plants in Carl Thunberg’s collected data 18th century botanical data published in Flora Capensis. This plant may actually be synonymous with P. elongata, also from South Africa because references often interchange the common name. This yew is best in full or partial sun. It is rated zone 9-11 on the USDA cold hardiness scale and should be okay down to 20-25 degrees.