Conserving a rare mountain Magnolia, China

Conservation problem

Magnolia omeiensis is Critically Endangered with fewer than 75 individuals remaining in the wild and is threatened by intensive forest logging.

Project goal

To save this unique tree from extinction, through the conservation efforts of local communities working with authorities to protect the species, both in botanic gardens and in the wild.

Why this species

Magnolia omeiensis is known from only two locations (Biandanyan and Shi-sungou) on Mount Emei, southern Sichuan. With fewer than 75 individuals distributed over small area of temperate forest, this Critically Endangered tree displays low seed production and germination rates. Intensive forest logging is the single most important threat to the species and no protection is yet in place to ensure that the population remains intact.

The unique flowers of Magnolia omeiensis (Li Cehong/Emeishan Botanical Garden)

What are we doing?

Sichuan Provincial Institute of Natural Resource Sciences and other Chinese partners, are working together to grow a stock of Magnolia omeiensis to be used as a source of material to plant the species in its natural habitat, safeguarding the species for the future. A series of public outreach and training activities are also being run to raise awareness of the benefits of saving this tree from extinction, and to strengthen the horticultural capacity required to cultivate the species at a much larger scale.

The main activities of this project include:

  • Conduct propagation trials to improve propagation best practice of the species.
  • Analyse the genetic diversity present within the two known populations.
  • Reinforce wild populations on Mount Emei.
  • Equip local communities with the skills necessary to propagate M. omeiensis within their gardens.
  • Inspire communities to become involved in the conservation of M. omeiensis through public engagement events.
  • Establish ex situ conservation collections at multiple botanic gardens in China.

Magnolia omeiensis in its natural habitat (Li Cehong/Emeishan Botanical Garden)

Key achievements

Over 500 saplings have been planted to reinforce wild populations on Mount Emei with an impressive survival rate of 96%. Ex situ conservation collections of 130 individuals have been established at Chengdu Botanical Garden of Sichuan, Kunming Botanical Garden and West China Subalpine Botanical Garden. So far, more than 1,500 seedlings have been propagated. Additionally, two training courses have been held at Emeishan Botanic Garden for partner organisations and local community representatives on best practice propagation and population reinforcement techniques.

A genetic analysis of M. omeiensis was conducted and found low genetic diversity amongst the individuals sampled. This is likely to be due to the small population size. Hand pollination, manually transferring pollen between wild trees, is being trialled in a bid to boost the species’ seed production and germination rates.

Local villagers helping with reinforcement planting

Contact details

For more information on this project, please contact globaltrees@bgci.org

Did you know?

The mpingo tree from Tanzania provides much of the wood used to make high quality clarinets, oboes, wooden flutes and bagpipes.