Discovering the Endangered Cypress Trees of Laos

It's nice to have a subject you can look up to. (Photo courtesy Gretchen Coffman)
It’s nice to have a subject you can look up to. (Photo courtesy Gretchen Coffman)

Come with us to one of the last truly wild places in Southeast Asia: the Annamite Mountains of central Laos. Here, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, among hill-tribe villages, grows the majestic—and critically endangered—Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis).

I stumbled (literally!) upon the hidden Lao population of Chinese Swamp Cypress in 2007, while surveying wetland wildlife habitat. After tripping over a cypress knee, I looked up at a red-barked giant, and saw something wonderfully strange and familiar. It looked to me like a cross between a Bald Cypress and a Coastal Redwood (trees I knew well from growing up in coastal Georgia and going to grad school in Northern California).

Later, IUCN conifer expert, Philip Thomas, told me its nearest relative is the very same Bald Cypress I knew from the swamps of the Southeastern U.S.! Moreover, in 2007, the conservation science community was aware of only 250 individuals of this species in the wild. Most were just spindly young things poking their way out of coffee plantations. Due to its rot-resistant wood (similar to rosewood), the Chinese Swamp Cypress is highly sought after for a —> Read More Here


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *