The Vietnamese golden cypress is a rare tree that was only discovered in 1999, on a high ridge in the mountains of northern Vietnam. The discovery caused great excitement: not only was it a species new to science, but it was different enough to be placed in its own genus Xanthocyparis.
Known locally as Bach vang, the Vietnamese golden cypress grows to 10-15m high with a diameter of up to 50-80cm. It has a pyramidal shape when young and a broad, flattened crown when mature.
The species is believed to have a very limited range in the mountains of northern Vietnam, close to the border with China. In 2012, one individual was found in Guangxi Province, China, although there is no further information on its occurrence there.
Cutting of the tree for timber and firewood is thought to be the most serious threat. The timber is very hard and scented so is an attractive material for local construction. Most trees are relatively small and contorted however, and this, combined with the difficulty of transporting timber from these inaccessible areas, limits its attractiveness for the timber trade. There is some evidence that it has been cut for firewood in some areas.
Since the species is only found on high, inaccessible ridges, the threat from agricultural expansion is limited. The tree has not been found in intact forest on lower slopes within its range, so it is believed to be naturally confined to the higher altitudes. The tree is very slow growing and although regeneration has been recorded in the wild, it is thought to be limited.
The Global Trees Campaign has been working to protect and restore rare trees in northern Vietnam since 2005. Read about our current work here.
Did you know?
Monkey puzzle wood can be used to reconstruct past climatic conditions. This is done by measuring growth rings which go back many hundreds of years.