Taxus florinii Spjut

Taxaceae

This recently described species is restricted to northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan. Like other Taxus species in the Himalayas and China it has been heavily exploited. No official IUCN assessment has been undertaken yet but it is likely to meet the criteria for Endangered on the basis of recent and past exploitation.

Description

Taxonomy

This species was first described in 2007 (Spjut 2007) with a distribution ranging from Xinjiang to Yunnan. Subsequent research, utilising a wider range of morphological characters and molecular techniques, redescribed it and recognised a more restricted distribution, limited to Yunnan and Sichuan (Gao et al. 2007; Moeller et al. 2007, 2013).

Distribution

Restricted to northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan in the Hengduan Mountains. Populations now recognised as this species were formerly identified as T. wallichiana.

Habitat and Ecology

Taxus florinii is usually a small to large understorey or lower canopy tree in montane, temperate or warm temperate forest. In open situations on rocky slopes and cliffs it may form a large, broadly spreading shrub. Elevation ranges from 2700 to 3200 metres above sea-level and soils are usually acidic to neutral. It has a very long life-span and may sprout from stumps. It may occur in pure stands of limited extent or be scattered in the understorey of Quercus, Tsuga, Abies and Picea mixed conifer forests.

Human Uses

The alkaloid compounds (taxanes) of the bark and leaves are a source for the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol®) which has become a major reason for exploitation in recent years. Traditional medicine has made use of young shoots and leaves and sometimes of inner bark for a long time in various potions, tinctures and pastes.

Conservation Status

Proposed Global Status and Rationale

Endangered A2cd

Taxus florinii has a relatively limited distribution and in some parts of its range it has undergone recent declines of up to 80%. On this basis it could be assessed as Endangered or possibly Critically Endangered under the A criteria.

Global Threats

The main threat has been overexploitation of bark and foliage for both domestic and international trade.

Conservation Actions

Most Asian Taxus are listed under CITES Appendix II and international trade is thereby regulated. In China exploitation of natural populations was banned in 2003. This taxon occurs in several protected areas.