Podocarpus totara (tōtara) is a species of podocarp tree endemic to New Zealand. It grows throughout the North Island and northeastern South Island in lowland, montane and lower subalpine forest at elevations of up to 600 m.

Tōtara is commonly found in lowland areas where the soil is fertile and well drained.[1]
The tōtara is a medium to large tree which grows slowly to around 20 to 25 m, exceptionally to 35 m; it is noted for its longevity and the great girth of its trunk. The bark peels off in papery flakes, with a purplish to golden brown hue. The sharp, dull green needle-like leaves are stiff and leathery, 2 cm long. This plant produces highly modified cones with 2 to 4 fused, fleshy berry-like juicy scales, bright red when mature. The cone contains one or two rounded seeds at the apex of the scales. 
The wood is hard, straight-grained and very resistant to rot, especially its heartwood. Due to its durability, tōtara wood was often used for fence posts, floor pilings and railway sleepers. It is also prized for its carving properties, and was the primary wood used in Māori carving. It was the primary wood used to make waka (canoes) in traditional Maori boat building due to its relatively light weight (about 25% lighter than Kauri), long straight lengths and natural oils in the wood which help prevent rotting.  
(From Wikipedia on 22.12.13)


 

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Podocarpus totara D. Don, Totara pine, with linear up to 25 mm long leaves, leathery; fruit 12 mm long, red.
Photographed from SFO, California


 

 

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