Nothofagus alessandrii is a member of the Nothofagaceae family, which are commonly known as the southern beeches. It grows in Chile, and is one of the most threatened plant species in continental Chile. It grows in coastal areas and on coastal mountains. The tree typically grows to a height of up to 30m, with a straight, grey trunk and green flowers.
There are 15 known locations of N. alessandrii, one of which was greatly affected by forest fires in 2017. Its’ habitat is also being lost to agriculture, with the species now occurring in small populations in fragmented areas, covering a total area of around 3.5km2. Fragmented populations can limit pollination and lead to inbreeding, reducing the reproductive output of the species. One area is protected in the nature reserve ‘Los Ruiles’.
There has also been deforestation for plantations of non-native tress, such as the Monterey pine, which results in competition between the species. In the past, the tree was over exploited for its timber and for fuel, however this threat has reduced.
There are some N. alessandrii trees that have been cultivated in the UK, the first probably being introduced by Lord Bradford in 1976. The growth rates of the trees in Scotland are slower than in the rest of the UK, due to colder conditions. There is intention to broaden the genetic base of cultivated N. alessandrii, by adding more material from across its natural range. It has also been cultivated in Australasia.
From next year, GTC will begin to help establish in situ and ex situ conservation actions for N. alessandrii. This will be achieved by setting up permanent plots for the species and eradicating invasive pests, as well as partnering with botanic gardens to propagate the species and establish ex situ conservation collections.
This species of Nothofagus was assessed for The Red List of Nothofagus published in 2018. All species of the family were assessed in this publication where 30% of species were identified as threatened.
Photo Credit- Martin Gardner, RBGE
Did you know?
One species of rhododendron (R. kanehirae) would be extinct if were not for collections made by botanic gardens.