There are approximately 108 species in the genus Podocarpus, which makes it the second biggest of all conifers. The word Podocarpus originates from the Greek word podos, meaning "foot," and karpos, meaning "fruit." It is also known by the Japanese names of Buddhist Pine, Temple Tree or Yew, which are incorrect since it is really not a yew. In the 18th century, it was classified erroneously by Carl Thunberg. The slow-to-mature evergreen conifer's history can be traced back to Japan.
The tree is grown in Buddhist temples and is native to Southern Japan and Eastern and Southern parts of China. Inu-Maki is the Japanese name for the plant. Since the plant is happy in low light spaces, it is an ideal indoor plant. The oval, purple, half-inch flowers are eye-appealing, but inedible in some species.
The fruit is considered toxic and should not be consumed in large amounts.
There is confusion about when the tree was introduced into Western Civilization, but it seems to be sometime in the 1800s.
The evergreen trees or shrubs have flat, simple leaves with a distinctive midrib. In its outdoor habitat, if left alone, the tree can get as huge as 82 feet high with a trunk that is 12.5 feet all the way around.
The tree can be trimmed into a column or hedge, making it a popular choice as a landscape tree. The tree dislikes being overly watered or soil that is not draining well. It prefers well-drained soil and it is a low-maintenance tree. It doesn't like cold weather and favors zones 8-10 on the hardiness zone map for live and the can survive year around indoors with the artificial topiary as shown here.
Interestingly, some species of Podocarpus were used for medical problems like arthritis, fevers, coughs, STD's, and canine distemper. Furthermore, a chemotherapy treatment used to help leukemia patients is made withPodocarpus.
Overall, the genus Podocarpus has a long history as one of the most prevalent evergreen shrubs or trees. It is a forgiving plant that can be trained to make a hedge, tree, or shrub.