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Products > Afrocarpus gracilior
Afrocarpus gracilior - African Fern Pine
Image of Afrocarpus gracilior
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Podocarpaceae (Podocarps)
Origin: Africa, East (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Insignificant
Bloomtime: Not Significant
Synonyms: [A. falcatus, Podocarpus gracilior]
Height: 40-60 feet
Width: 20-40 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
Afrocarpus gracilior (African Fern Pine) - A dense, graceful tall evergreen tree with dark gray bark and pendulous branches that are heavily clothed in 2-3 inch long, narrow dark green leaves. In habitat it can reach as tall and 100 feet and noted old trees in cultivation are closer to 60 feet tall. Female plants produce at branch ends a yellow fleshy fruit-like structure (technically a cone) that ages to purplish-blue. Plant in sun or part shade and water regularly. This is a nice dark green shade tree, and it is also useful as a large screening plant. One of the few conifers native to Africa, it comes from equatorial eastern Africa ranging from Ethiopia south into Uganda and Kenya where it grows in dry forests between 4,000 and 9,000 feet.

Afrocarpus gracilior has long been cultivated in gardens in the US under the name Podocarpus gracilior but more recently this genus has been split up and the valid name of this plant is now considered to be Afrocarpus gracilior. The distinguishing characteristics between Afrocarpus and Podocarpus has to do with how the seed-bearing structure (the fruit) is held, not on a fleshy stalk or receptacle for Afrocarpus as opposed to Podocarpus, which does have this structure, and because Afrocarpus have opposite decussate leaves that alternate in pairs set at 90 degrees from the pair below it. We have grown other plants such as Podocarpus henkelii, Podocarpus latifolia and Podocarpus totara that have remained in the genus Podocarpus. The name Podocarpus comes from the Greek root words 'podo' meaning "foot" or "footed" and 'karpos' meaning "seed" and Afrocarpus is adapted from this name with the translation meaning African seed (from 'Afrus' the Libyan Hercules). The specific epithet is from Latin 'gracilis' meaning "thin" with the comparative suffix 'ior' making the meaning "thinner", likely in comparison to other species or Podocarpus. This plant is also sometimes listed as Afrocarpus falcatus, a South African species that has spherical fruit while A. gracilior from the north has oval fruit. Some contend that it was Afrocarpus falcatus that was originally introduced into California as Podocarpus gracilior and that the true Podocarpus gracilior, now Afrocarpus gracilior is not actually in cultivation or is rarer. So not to confuse our customers and ourselves too much, we are continuing to list this tree as Afrocarpus gracilior until such time as botanists can work this all out. 

This information about Afrocarpus gracilior displayed on this web page is based on research we have conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations we have made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens visited, as well how our crops have performed in containers in the nursery field. Where appropriate, we will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share cultural information that would aid others in growing this plant.