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The yellowwood family is primeval and has been present in South Africa for more than 100 million years. The species is widespread and is found from Table Mountain, along the southern and eastern Cape coast, in the ravines of the Drakensberg up to the Soutpansberg and the Blouberg in Limpopo.
In forests, they can grow up to 40 metres in height with the base of the trunk sometimes up to 3 metres in diameter. In contrast, trees that grow in unsheltered places like mountain-slopes, are often short, bushy and gnarled. The bark of the real yellowwood is khaki-coloured to grey when it is old, deeply split and peels off in strips. The crown is relatively small in relation to its height and is often covered with grey lichen. Male and female cones resemble pine cones and are white, light green or pink. The female cone has a fleshy podocarpium on which the seed, which takes on the shape and colour of a cherry, develops. The leaves are strap-shaped, 25–40 mm long on mature trees, larger, to 100 mm long, on vigorous young trees, and 6–12 mm broad, with a bluntly pointed tip.
It is a slow-growing tree. The wood is hard, similar to yew wood, used for furniture, panelling, etc. Due to past over-exploitation, little is now cut.