Abies recurvata Mast.

Pinaceae

A timber tree in western China, which has been heavily exploited until recently when it was decided to preserve the remaining old growth forests

Associated Names:

Distribution

Occurs in China in SW Gansu, Sichuan, Xizang and possibly Yunnan.

Habitat and Ecology

Min Fir is a high mountain species of SW China, occurring between 2300 and 3600 metres above sea-level or even higher. It usually grows on grey-brown mountain podzols. The climate is cold, moist, with annual precipitation between 700 to 1000mm. Both varieties are usually constituents of a mixed coniferous forest type, with among other species A. squamata, Picea likiangensis var. rubescens, P. asperata, and Larix potaninii; Picea purpurea and Abies fargesii var. faxoniana are mainly found with the 'typical' variety, and A. fabri with var. ernestii. Betula albosinensis is the only common broad-leaved tree at higher elevations, but lower down the slopes other genera, e.g. Acer, Populus, but also different conifer species, e.g. Tsuga chinensis, Picea brachytyla var. complanata and Pinus armandii become more abundant.

Human Uses

A timber tree in western China, heavily exploited until recently when the Chinese government finally decided to preserve its remaining old growth forests in the western provinces. Its timber was used mainly for construction and carpentry work. The type collection (of var. recurvata) was collected by Ernest H. Wilson on his first expedition to western China in 1903; the species was introduced to horticulture in the USA and UK from seed collected by him on subsequent journeys to the Min River drainage. As with most Chinese species in Abies, it remains a dendrologists' collector's item and has not entered the common gardening trade. A main reason for this is undoubtedly the unavailability of seed from its country of origin for a long period after the efforts of the early twentieth century's plant collectors came to an end. Renewed collecting, made possible in the last few decades in partnership with Chinese botanists, has been undertaken under more restricting conditions and the results have largely remained within the confines of major botanic gardens. Even if trees in cultivation produce viable seed, unless they are grown in complete isolation from other species of Abies, that seed is likely to produce plants with a mixture of genes from almost any of those other species.

Conservation Status

Global status

Vulnerable A2d

Global rationale

Both varieties of this species have been assessed as Vulnerable following declines associated with past logging of more than 30% but less than 50%. As a result the species is also assessed as Vulnerable.

Global threats

A timber tree in western China, heavily exploited until recently when the Chinese government finally decided to preserve its remaining old growth forests in the western provinces.

Conservation Actions

The Government of China has recently imposed a logging ban in western China.