Aug 3
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Endangered Species of the Week: Wollemi pine

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
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Endangered Species of the Week: Maidenhair tree

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

Apr 26
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Spotlight on: Arbor Day, USA

Tree lovers unite – it’s Arbor Day! Did you know Arbor Day is over 135 years old? Its roots go way back to the Nebraska Territory of the USA in the late 1850s, but it wasn’t celebrated nationwide in the States until 1882.  A popular holiday advocating for the planting of trees, the first Arbor Day celebration was rumored to have planted over one million trees!

To celebrate, we’ve gathered some of our favorite images in the ARKive collection of tree species from both the US and around the world to show just how extraordinary trees can be. Are any of these your favorite?

Tree on fire

Photo of flame tree

This lovely bean tree gets its name from its vibrant red and yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. If you catch the flame tree at dusk, you may be able to see its fragile leaves folding into its branches. Originally found in Madagascar, the flame tree has adapted to grow in other parts of the world.

Big-trunked timber

Photo of bottle tree

Can you guess how this African tree got its name? In addition to its unique shape, the bottle tree’s sap is considered highly toxic. Add this to its thorn-covered branches, one would argue that the bottle tree was definitely built for survival!

Thorns and haws

Photo of hawthorn tree

Like the bottle tree, hawthorns have thorns that create a protective barrier against animals. Though its bark is dark grey and brown, this tree blossoms white flowers and produces red berries called ‘haws’. A common tree in Britain, the Hawthorns’ flowers bloom in May, marking the sweet transition from spring into summer.

Nuts for trees

Photo of Brazil-nut tree

While Arbor Day is a joyful celebration of trees and nature, it also looks at the issue of conservation. The Brazil-nut trees in this photo were left standing amid deforestation, a widespread threat that has left this species Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This tree is an incredibly versatile and important plant found in South America, particularly the Amazon. Interested in learning more? Take a look at our reforestation topic page inspired by our recently-released, free online game, Team WILD!

Mythical topiary

Photo of dragon's blood tree

A great provider of shade due to its dense foliage, the dragon’s blood tree is well known for its peculiar umbrella shape. As for its namesake, the dragon’s blood tree is prized for its dark red-colored resin that has been used since ancient times in art and medicine. A member of the evergreen tree family, this species keeps its leaves all year long. 

Large and looming

Photo of giant sequoia trees

The giant sequoia is awe-inspiring because of its massive volume and distinctive reddish brown coloring. Its enormous trunk measures up to 11 meters in diameter!  They may not be the tallest trees in the world, but the giant sequoia is certainly the largest. This woodland conifer is found in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California and one of the best places to visit these trees is at Yosemite National Park. Since this week is also National Park Week, now would be the perfect time for a road trip to see sequoias!

There are so many more amazing trees to explore on ARKive so why not have a search around the site today! Or, if you’re looking for a fun, educational experience to celebrate the holiday, why not give our free Plants lesson a go.

Andrea Small, Intern, Wildscreen USA

Mar 18
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Spotlight On: National Wildlife Week USA

It’s National Wildlife Week in America and a perfect excuse for us to comb the ARKive collection for species in support of this year’s theme, ‘Branching Out for Wildlife’ – celebrating trees and their importance to wildlife and people.

Trees are essential for species survival around the world. They provide vital habitat for species in nearly every category from mushrooms to mammals and everything in between. Their leaves clean the air we breathe and their wood provides invaluable ecosystem services to humans. Basically, we just couldn’t survive without them!

We thought we’d showcase some of our favorite images on ARKive featuring species ‘branching out’ in their own ways. Take a look; you might be surprised at some of the species on our list!

Ring-tailed clinger

Photo of Northern raccoon

You may have spotted a Northern raccoon scampering around the forest floor but this species is actually right at home climbing in and around the limbs of trees. For a more classic image of raccoons and trees, take a look at these cuties.

Leg-less limb lounger

ARKive's common garter snake species profile

Did you know that some snakes could climb trees? Snakes like this red-sided garter snake are able to slither their way up trunks and limbs to avoid predators or, in this case, to escape from a pining male suitor.

Fir-climbing feline

ARKive's Canada lynx species profile

You’ve probably heard the story of the little house kitty that got stuck up in the tree, right? Well, the far distant cousin of the house cat, the Canada lynx, has no problem ambling up and around the trees in its native habitat. On the ground, these cats rely on fallen trees, among other shrubbery, for cozy bedding.

Pine tree pecker

ARKive's pileated woodpecker species profile

No collection of tree-dwelling species would be complete without a woodpecker which uses its powerful beak to ‘peck’ holes into tree trunks to create a home. Woodpeckers like this pileated woodpecker are especially important to the woodland ecosystems since vacated woodpecker homes provide essential shelter for other species such as owls, bats and swifts.

Branching bear

ARKive's brown bear species profile

While the large claws of the brown bear are better suited for digging rather than tree climbing, it certainly doesn’t stop this opportunistic feeder from climbing up a trunk or two for a meal.

Can you think of other American species that require trees to live? Why not do some exploring around the Wisconsin’s Northwoods or the Eastern deciduous forest of the US. Shout out your favorite species in the comments below and include a link to the species on ARKive so we can learn together!

Liana Vitali, ARKive Education and Outreach Manager, Wildscreen USA

Mar 13
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In the News: New protection for tropical trees

Many species of endangered tropical trees will be given greater protection after delegates at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, Thailand voted on new restrictions on trade.

Photo of leaves of Thailand rosewood

The Thailand rosewood is just one of the species that has been given new protection

Delegates at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties agreed to give extra protection to species of rosewood and ebony that are seriously threatened by illegal logging. The new restrictions will involve listing these trees on Appendix II of CITES, meaning exports and imports should be carefully controlled. The listing covers many species from South America and Southeast Asia, as well as all of Madagascar’s ebony and rosewood trees.

There are 80 ebony species known in Madagascar but they are literally identifying more right now and there may be as many as 240 species in all,” said Noel McGough of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, one of the members of the UK delegation at the conference.

The restrictions will also cover species such as the Brazilian rosewood and the Thailand rosewood.

Illegal timber trade

The illegal trade in timber is estimated to be worth around $30 billion each year, with rosewood and ebony being in great demand for high-end products such as luxury furniture and musical instruments. Illegal logging of these species is being fuelled by increasing demand from China, with trees such as the Thailand rosewood sometimes selling for up to a staggering $50,000 per cubic metre.

Speaking about the listing of Thailand rosewood, Faith Doherty of the Environmental Investigation Agency said, “With this listing, the consumer markets will need to work with Thailand and the range states of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to ensure [Thailand] Rosewood is actually protected, especially as there is a logging ban in Thailand. Finally, we have a legal tool to use in China, the main destination and where rosewood prices on the black market are spurring a flood of smuggling and associated violence.”

Photo of Dalbergia xerophila leaves and seed pods

Dalbergia xerophila, an Endangered Madagascan rosewood species

Many ebony products from Madagascar also end up in China. Despite a ban on exports, Madagascar is experiencing an illegal logging crisis, putting the country’s already threatened forests and wildlife under even more pressure. The new trade restrictions mean that exporting countries now have a legal obligation to ensure that the level of logging is not detrimental to the survival of the listed species, and trade sanctions can be imposed on any country that over-exports them.

Fighting crime

The illegal logging trade is thought to be worth up to $100 billion each year, and also accounts for 15 to 30 percent of all deforestation in tropical regions. The illegal trade not only devastates forests, but also impacts upon local people, robs governments of important tax revenue, and is associated with violence and other crimes such as human trafficking, drugs and weapons sales.

Regulating the international trade will give the chance to feed money back to the poor local communities,” said Noel McGough. “Illegal trade just drains money away from them.”

Photo of Diospyros mun mature tree

Like many related species, the ebony tree Diospyros mun is threatened by high demand for its timber

Greater protection welcomed

Campaigners have welcomed the greater protection for these tropical trees, which stands in contrast to the slow pace of progress in tackling ivory poaching and other trade issues.

Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation said, “I think it is exciting to see that CITES is being brave enough in the face of very persuasive commercial operations to address tree species. Everybody now recognises that there is a serious crisis out there – the demand side of the equation has to be addressed and the only way of doing that is to put these species on Appendix II.”

The fight against illegal logging has been strengthened in recent years, and in the United States, Australia and the EU it is a crime to import or sell any wood products made from illegally logged timber. The new protection for ebony and rosewood species is a further step forward in the battle to save these highly threatened trees from extinction.

 

Read more on this story at BBC News, Mongabay and The Guardian.

View photos of ebony and rosewood species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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