Genetic diversity and relationships of New Zealand totara (Podocarpus totara) : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Genetics at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
Totara (Podocarpus totara) is an iconic and endemic New Zealand species and its use as a timber for carving is still highly preferred by Tohunga whakairo (Māori carving experts). Current mature totara timber resources are scarce and mass replanting of totara is very costly. The ability to distinguish between species (especially P. totara and P. hallii) - identifying species from seed and seedlings – would be of much interest for nursery and restoration projects. Existing methods relying on bark characteristics, seed classification, and needle morphology are inadequate for this purpose. Hybridization can also make problematic species designations. This thesis reports the successful development of ten High Resolution Melting DNA markers that can differentiate New Zealand totara species. The chloroplast genome sequence of P. totara x P. hallii was completed and annotated, providing a further resource for developing additional molecular markers. The findings of this thesis will help ensure the “true” totara species (P. totara) is retained as a resource in perpetuity for Māori, conservationists, foresters and home gardeners.