The Podocarpaceae is one of the two principal Southern Hemisphere conifer families (the other is the Araucariaceae). It contains 18 or 19 extant genera and nearly 200 species. Species occur in all the Southern Hemisphere continents; some penetrate northwards in the Caribbean Islands, NE Africa, SE Asia and Japan. Many species are more or less narrowly endemic; 78 are listed in the 2006 IUCN Red List. Most species are dispersed by vertebrates, especially birds; many of the dispersal agents are also threatened. One species, Parasitaxus usta, is the world's only ‘parasitic' gymnosperm. Its host is another member of Podocarpaceae, Falcatifolium taxoides; both grow only on New Caledonia.
So far research has focused on:
- compilation of an authoritative catalogue of all taxa, living and fossil
- studies of the New Caledonian species Acmopyle pancheri
- investigations of fruit morphology using nuclear resonance imaging
- molecular research, focusing especially on the relationships of Parasitaxus and within Podocarpus
Research on Podocarpaceae at RBGE is led by Dr Robert Mill.