The Chinese Swamp Cypress is the only living species of its genus (Glyptostrobus), and is found in South East China, Laos and Vietnam. It grows near water, in floodplains, along streams and near swamp land. It can also grow in water up to 60 cm deep. When growing in water, it produces structures known as ‘cyprus knees’, which are thought to aid oxygen transportation to the roots. It can grow up to 30m tall with a trunk diameter of up to 100cm.
The remaining population of this species is small, and there is continuing decline in population size. Hence, the species was assessed for the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered in 2011.
Its’ timber is highly valued as it is insect and termite resistant, as well as easy to work. It is used to make cabinets, fine art, musical instruments and furniture. The roots are very light and are used to make life rings in China due to their buoyancy, as well as bottle corks. From both the bark and cones, tannins are extracted and are used in tanning, dye and fishing nets.
Populations in Vietnam are in coffee plantations, which have affected the water table. This has led to trees not producing fertile seed. There has also been reports of illegal logging within nature reserves. The species is threatened by habitat decline mainly due to agriculture, as well as dams and renewable energy production.
The species is widely cultivated in China along rivers and canals, primarily for timber production. Due to its extensive root system, Chinese Swamp Cypress are also planted for erosion control and to stabilise river banks in wet areas.
There is a GTC project aiming to propagate and conserve Glyptostrobus pensilis in ex situ in China, Vietnam and Laos to increase the number of individuals in the wild, as well as to train and educate local communities to improve their knowledge of conservation. Already 1,500 individuals have been propagated at South China Botanical Garden.
Did you know?
Over exploitation of the huarango tree led to ecological devastation and the consequent downfall of a pre-inca civilisation, known as the Nasca.