Athrotaxis cupressoides D.Don

Endemic to Tasmania where the main threats are fire, grazing of regeneration and dieback caused by Phytophthora


Confined to Tasmania, Australia mainly on the Central Plateau, the Great Western Tier and westward mountains, more scattered in the south of the island. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, based on herbarium specimens data, is estimated to be 12,818km² and 650km² respectively. Estimates of the area of occupancy for the main vegetation types that A. cupressoides occurs in, are considerably less: 24,279ha (Balmer et al., 2004).

Habitat and Ecology

A relatively small slow growing, longlived tree of the subalpine zone where it occasionally forms dense stands. Often found on fire protected sites such as bogs, around lake shores or alongside streams. Usually associated with conifers such as Diselma archeri and Pherosphaera hookeriana and angiosperms such as Eucalyptus coccifera, Orites acicularis, Richea scoparia, R. pandanifolia and Nothofagus gunnii.

Conservation Status

Global status

Vulnerable B1ab(ii,iii,v)+2ab(ii,iii,v)

Global rationale

Calculations of extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) for Athrotaxis cupressoides are based on herbarium specimen distribution data. While EOO appears roughly in accordance with a map published by Brown & Hill in Farjon & Page (1999), the AOO could be too small if a grid size of 2-4km were used. This is because there are many stands known that were not sampled for the herbaria consulted. Using a 5km grid puts the species in VU under the observation of slowed but still ongoing decline.

Global threats

This species is extremely fire sensitive and much of the total population was fire-killed mainly in widespread fires on the Central Plateau in 1960/61. Regeneration of the species is limited by grazing, mainly by introduced sheep and rabbits, of which the latter remain a problem. Dieback in which a species of the oomycete genus Phytophthora may be implicated occurs at some high altitude sites.

Conservation Actions

Over 90% of the remaining areas of the species are now within IUCN Category I-IV reserves, especially within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

References and further reading

  1. Balmer, J., Whinam, J., Kelman, J., Kirkpatrick, J.B. & Lazarus, E. (2004). A review of the floristic values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Nature Conservation Report 2004/3.
  2. Brown, M. J. & Hill, R.S. (1999). Regional Action Plan: Conifers of Tasmania. In: A. Farjon and C. N. Page (compilers) (eds), Conifers. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Conifer Specialist Group, pp. 63-72. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  3. Cullen, P. (1989). Conservation of Pencil Pine Communities on the Central Plateau. The Tasmanian Naturalist 96: 1-7.
  4. Cullen, P.J. & J. B. Kirkpatrick. (1988). The ecology of Athrotaxis D.Don Taxodiaceae. 1. Stand structure and regeneration of A. cupressoides. Australian Journal of Botany 36(5): 547-560.
  5. Cullen, P.J. & Kirkpatrick, J.B. (1988). The ecology of Athrotaxis D. Don (Taxodiaceae). 2. The distribution and ecological differentiation of Athrotaxis cupressoides and Athrotaxis selaginoides. Australian Journal of Ecology 36(5): 561-573.
  6. Enright, N.J. & Hill, R.S. (1995). Ecology of the Southern Conifers. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.
  7. Farjon, A. (2005). A Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  8. Farjon, A. (2013). Athrotaxis cupressoides. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <>. Downloaded on 05 July 2013.
  9. Kirkpatrick, J. (1989). The conservation and reservation status of Tasmanian higher plants. Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage, Hobart.
  10. Kirkpatrick, J.B., Bridle, K. & Dickinson, J.M. (2010). Decades-scale vegetation change in burned and unburned alpine coniferous heath. Australian Journal of Botany 58: 453-462.
  11. Pyrke, A.F. & Marsden-Smedley, J.B.. (2005). Fire-attributes categories, fire sensitivity, and flammability of Tasmanian vegetation communities. Tasforests 16: 35-46.
  12. Whinam, J. (1995). New Threat to Tasmania's Mountain Flora. Danthonia 4(1): 10.