Real World Gardener Plum Pines in Plant of the Week

March 5th, 2020


Podocarpus elatus: Plum Pine


Are you of the opinion that all pine trees have pine cones and needle like leaves?

Most gardeners associate pine trees with Christmas because after all, that’s a conifer. Right?


Before the continents separated, there was a lot of rainforest over the earth and there was no need for trees or any plants to adapt to dry periods.

Needle like leaves are for conserving moisture after all.

So what did conifers look like millions of years ago? 


Podocarpus elatus:plum pine


So let’s find out.

I'm talking with Adrian O”Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

PLAY: :Plum pine_19th February 2020

The plum pine has been around for 250 million years back when the world was a big rainforest with plenty of rainfall.

No need for needle leaves to conserve water back then, but instead large leaves, and they do not have cones like the other conifers but instead have a single seed attached by a fleshy stem to the branch.

The purple fruit have a sort of plum like flavour and can be used for making sauces, jams and relishes.

  • Botanical Bite: Trees are dioecious, (different house), meaning the male and female flowers parts are on separate trees.

You would need to consider planting two or three of these trees together to ensure you get any fruit at all.

  • Be aware, when the pines do bear fruit, birds and flying foxes will come a calling and spit out the pips, leaving a purple stain on your nice paving. Best to not grow it near your driveway or paving.

Adrian had a plant in a pot, which does quite well with root pruning every few years. In the ground the tree will grow to 12 metres in its natural habitat, but a lot less in your backyard garden.

If you have any questions either for me or for Adrian, why not write in to

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