An embryological study is being done on two New Zealand podocarp species, Prumnopitys taxifolia (matai) and P. ferruginea (miro), firstly, to fill gaps in our knowledge of their embryogeny, and secondly, to ascertain whether any differences may have taxonomic significance. During 3-4 annual cycles specimens of male and female cones have been collected and fixed at successive stages of development. Most specimens were embedded in paraffin wax, sectioned and stained for light microscopy, while some were embedded in resin for both LM and TEM. Later stages of embryo development were obtained from seeds collected, planted and exhumed at regular intervals leading up to germination. Several developmental stages not illustrated in the literature have been observed so far, and comprehensive life cycles have been constructed for both species. Two stages of taxonomic potential will be discussed: 1. the fertilization mechanism, and 2. the structure and development of the proembryo shortly after fertilization. The tiered proembryo in these podocarps conforms to the basal plan more typical for conifers than the derived embryogeny of the Pinaceae. The unusual fertilization mechanism observed in these two species has only been observed in one other conifer, Prumnopitys andina, their closest Chilean relative.

Key words: conifer embryology, fertilization mechanism, New Zealand podocarps, Podocarpaceae, Prumnopitys