Oct 12
Photo of Maltese rock-centaury flowers in habitat

Maltese rock-centaury (Cheirolophus crassifolius)

Species: Maltese rock-centaury (Cheirolophus crassifolius)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Maltese rock-centaury is the national plant of Malta.

More information:

A perennial plant with smooth, fleshy leaves and attractive purple flowers, the Maltese rock-centaury is found on Malta and the nearby islands of Gozo and Fungus Rock. It grows only in full sun on coastal limestone cliffs and on loose rock debris on slopes. This long-lived plant flowers between May and July, producing a single flower head on each flowering stalk. The flower heads of the Maltese rock-centaury are made up of many small, individual, tubular flowers and are surrounded by a whorl of specialised leaves, or ‘bracts’, with the whole structure resembling a single flower. The seeds of the Maltese rock-centaury are dispersed by the wind.

The Maltese rock-centaury has a very restricted range, being found in a total area of less than 100 square kilometres. Its population is fragmented and is estimated at just a few thousand individuals. The main threats to this plant include nearby quarrying activities, which can cause the fragile cliffs it grows on to collapse, and human disturbance in more accessible areas. Invasive plants also pose a risk, while an unidentified moth larva has been seen attacking this species’ developing fruits. The Maltese rock-centaury is listed on the EC Habitats Directive as a priority species, giving it legal protection, and some of the cliffs it grows on are also protected. This plant has also been cultivated, providing potential stock for future reintroductions. The Maltese rock-centaury’s habitat requires careful management and protection, and better control of quarrying and of invasive plants is also needed.


Find out more about the Maltese rock-centaury and other threatened Mediterranean plants at IUCN – The Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants: Wild plants on the brink of extinction, and what is needed to save them.

See more images of the Maltese rock-centaury on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 3
Photo of Wollemi pine leaves

Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis)

Species: Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Wollemi pine is the only surviving member of an ancient group of plants that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs.

More information: An ancient and unusual tree, the Wollemi pine was thought to have been extinct for two million years before it was found growing in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park, Australia, in 1994. This tall conifer produces both male and female cones on the same plant, with the female cones occurring on the higher branches and producing small, brown, papery seeds which are dispersed by the wind. The Wollemi pine can also reproduce vegetatively, resulting in numerous trunks arising from a single tree. Individuals of this long-lived species may potentially reach 500 to 1,000 years old.

The Wollemi pine has an extremely limited distribution, and fewer than 100 mature individuals now remain in the wild. The species may have been undergoing a slow, natural decline for thousands of years, but it is now under threat from fire, exotic weeds, disease, and any trampling or disturbance by unauthorised visitors. Changing rainfall and temperature patterns associated with climate change may also be a potential threat. Fortunately, this unique conifer is legally protected and a recovery plan is in place to outline management measures. In addition, access to the site where it occurs is restricted. The Wollemi pine is now being grown commercially and the plants distributed worldwide in an effort to protect the wild individuals from collectors and to generate income for this species’ continued conservation.


Find out more about the Wollemi pine at The Wollemi Pine and The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust – Wollemi pine.

See more images of the Wollemi pine on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 18
Photo of maidenhair tree fruit and leaves

Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Species: Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: The maidenhair tree is known as a ‘living fossil’, as it is the only surviving member of a group of trees dating back to before the time of the dinosaurs.

A large tree with characteristically fan-shaped leaves, the maidenhair tree gets its common name from the resemblance of its leaves to those of maidenhair ferns (Adiantum species). Its leaves are greenish-yellow, but turn a beautiful golden yellow in autumn. The maidenhair tree takes 20 to 35 years to reach maturity, and can be very long lived, with the oldest recorded individual being an estimated 3,500 years old. Maidenhair trees are either male or female, with male trees producing pollen on catkin-like cones and females producing smelly, flesh-coated seeds. The maidenhair tree has been widely used in traditional medicine in China and Japan, and its nuts are edible if cooked. An extract of the plant’s leaves is now one of the most popular herbal remedies in the West, being used to treat a variety of ailments.

The maidenhair tree has been widely planted as an ornamental tree and for its medicinal properties. This species was traditionally grown in temple gardens in Japan and China, but is now popular worldwide. Unfortunately, its survival in the wild is less secure, mainly due to widespread deforestation. A few individuals are found on Mount Xitianmu in China, but it is not clear whether they are truly wild or are descended from temple garden trees. No specific conservation measures are currently in place for this unique tree, but its worldwide popularity means it is likely to persist in cultivation into the future.

Find out more about the maidenhair tree at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – Maidenhair tree.

See images of the maidenhair tree on ARKive.

Today is Plant Conservation Day! Find out more at the Plant Conservation Day website.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Mar 13

It’s ARKive’s 10th birthday this year and we want you to join our celebrations by helping us find the World’s Favourite Species.

We think all the world’s species are amazing but which is your favourite? Which animal, plant or fungi is so special that it deserves to be crowned the World’s Favourite Species?

Nominate today!

Nominations are now open and it couldn’t be simpler to vote  – simply find your favourite species on ARKive and click the ‘Nominate Today!’ button.

You have until 3rd April to suggest your favourites (and yes, you can choose more than one species!), after which we’ll draw up the shortlist and put it to the public vote. This shortlist will be whittled down to determine the Top Ten World’s Favourite Species – as chosen by you.

We can’t do it without your input – please spare a few moments to make your nomination TODAY!

Need some inspiration?

There are over 15,000 species on ARKive to nominate, so here are a few suggestions to start you off…

Will you nominate the polar bear – our most visited species so far this month?

Photo of polar bear with cubs

What about a newly discovered species? Is the Louisiana pancake batfish your favourite?

Louisiana pancake batfish

The osprey features as our no.1 video, but will it be no. 1 species?

Photo of osprey in flight carrying fish

Vote now, and share your nominations on Facebook and Twitter!

Feb 18

Trees are some of the most important organisms on the planet, creating great habitats for wildlife and also providing humans with vital products such as timber, food and medicines. Trees even help to combat climate change, pollution and flooding, and have been shown to have positive effects on human health and wellbeing.

It’s often the animal world that gets all the attention, so we thought it was time to give plants a bit more love by celebrating ten of ARKive’s top trees from around the world. Meet some of the oldest, largest, rarest, weirdest and most magnificent species on Earth…

Ancient mountain dweller

Photo of bristlecone pine trunk

The bristlecone pine is one of the world’s longest-lived organisms, with one individual, known as ‘Methuselah’, estimated to be nearly 5,000 years old. This hardy species inhabits harsh mountainous environments in California, Nevada and Utah, and has an extremely slow growth rate. Typically quite gnarled and stunted in appearance, the bristlecone pine is named for the prickles on the surface of its dark purple female cones.

Impressive giant

Photo of giant sequoia (The General Grant Tree)

Although not the world’s tallest tree, in terms of sheer volume the giant sequoia is one of the largest living organisms on the planet. Reaching up to 95 metres in height and 11 metres in diameter, with bark up to 60 centimetres thick, this giant tree can live for over 3,000 years. Found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, the giant sequoia is resistant to fire, and regular wildfires help to remove competing plants as well as allowing this species’ cones to open.

Towering triumph

Photo of coast redwoods growing in a circle

Closely related to the giant sequoia, the coast redwood is the tallest tree on Earth, growing to a staggering 115 metres in height, with a trunk up to 9 metres in diameter. This towering giant is confined to foggy coastal areas in southwest Oregon and northwest California, USA. Unfortunately, the coast redwood has been highly prized for its timber and an estimated 95% of the original redwood forest has been cut down.

Sustainable nut producer

Photo of open Brazil-nut fruit

Native to South America, the brazil-nut tree is one of the most economically important plants in the Amazon. Its famous seeds grow inside a large, round fruit, arranged like the segments of an orange, and are harvested for food and oil. The brazil-nut tree depends on agoutis to gnaw through its tough fruit and release the seeds, and on certain bee species to pollinate its flowers. The bees in turn depend on a certain type of orchid to survive. The brazil-nut tree can therefore only produce seeds in undisturbed forest, making it a model for generating a sustainable income from tropical forests.

Lonely palm

Photo of loneliest palm, Curepipe Botanic Garden, Mauritius

The loneliest palm is one of the rarest plants in the world, with only one wild individual remaining. This lonely tree grows in the Curepipe Botanical Garden in Mauritius, where it has survived for over 50 years. Although it flowers and fruits regularly, the fruits of this individual are sterile as the male flowers open before the female flowers, preventing pollination. Attempts have been made to clone this rare palm, but the clones have so far failed to survive.

Living fossil

Photo of Wollemi pine leaves

The Wollemi pine has been called a ‘living fossil’, as it represents the only remaining member of an ancient group of plants. Previously believed to be extinct, the Wollemi pine was rediscovered in Australia in 1994, where it is known from just two sites in Wollemi National Park, New South Wales. This prehistoric species is one of the world’s rarest plants, but is now being grown in cultivation and planted in gardens and parks around the world, helping to support its conservation.

Imposing icon

Photo of an avenue of Grandidier's baobab trees

Found in southwest Madagascar, Grandidier’s baobab is the largest and most famous of the island’s baobab trees. Sometimes known as the ‘upside-down tree’, it is an imposing species with a massive cylindrical trunk, which is used to store water. Its spectacular white flowers are said to smell of sour watermelon, and are pollinated by nocturnal mammals. Sadly, this iconic tree is under threat from the conversion of its forest habitat into open agricultural land.

Here be dragons!

Photo of dragon's blood trees in flower

One of the most distinctive plants on the island of Socotra, the evocatively named dragon’s blood tree has a truly bizarre appearance, with an upturned, densely packed crown which has the shape of an upside-down umbrella. Morning mists condense on the waxy leaves and are channelled down the trunk to the roots, while the dense crown shades the ground below and reduces evaporation. This strange tree is named for its dark red resin, known as ‘dragon’s blood’, which has been a highly prized substance since ancient times.

Medicinal marvel

Photo of maidenhair tree fruit and leaves

Renowned worldwide for its medicinal properties, the maidenhair tree (Gingko biloba) is the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees dating back to before the time of the dinosaurs. This unique species has been used in traditional medicines for hundreds of years, and is still popular in herbal remedies today. Although the maidenhair tree is widely planted around the world, its wild populations appear to be confined to Mount Xitianmu in Zhejiang, China. However, it is unclear whether these individuals are truly wild or are descendents from temple gardens

From little acorns…

Photo of ancient sessile oak tree covered with ferns and lichens

Oak trees are surrounded by much folklore and are well-loved symbols of strength. Native to most of Europe and parts of Asia, the sessile oak is so-named because its acorns are not supported on stalks. Like other oaks, the sessile oak supports an amazing variety of wildlife and is a habitat in its own right. The open canopy of this species allows light to reach the ground, favouring the growth of a range of ground plants, while its acorns provide food for many animal species.


These are just some of the world’s weird and wonderful trees – you can discover more and view photos of tree species from around the world on ARKive.

You can also find out more about tree conservation at Fauna & Flora International’s Global Trees Campaign and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Do you have a favourite tree, or one that means something special to you? Let us know!

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author


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