Glyptostrobus pensilis

Glyptostrobus pensilis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Cupressaceae
Subfamily: Taxodioideae[2]
Genus: Glyptostrobus
Species: G. pensilis
Binomial name
Glyptostrobus pensilis
(Staunton ex D.Don) K.Koch, 1873[4]

Glyptostrobus pensilis, also known as Chinese swamp cypress, is the sole living species in the genus Glyptostrobus. It is native to subtropical southeastern China, from Fujian west to southeast Yunnan, and also very locally in northern Vietnam.

400- to 500-year-old samples in Nanhua Temple

It is a medium-sized to large tree, reaching 30 m (98 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 1 m (3.3 ft), possibly more. The leaves are deciduous, spirally arranged but twisted at the base to lie in two horizontal ranks, 5–20 mm (0.20–0.79 in) long and 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) broad, but 2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) long and scale-like on shoots in the upper crown. The cones are green maturing yellow-brown, pear-shaped, 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) long and 1–1.5 cm (0.39–0.59 in) diameter, broadest near the apex. They open when mature to release the small, 5–20 mm (0.20–0.79 in) long, winged seeds.

It typically grows in river banks, ponds and swamps, growing in water up to 60 cm (24 in) deep. Like the related genus Taxodium, it produces 'cypress knees', or pneumatophores, when growing in water, thought to help transport oxygen to the roots.

The species is nearly extinct in the wild due to overcutting for its valuable decay-resistant, scented wood, but it is also fairly widely planted along the banks of rice paddies where its roots help to stabilise the banks by reducing soil erosion.[5] There appear to be no remaining wild plants in China and few of those in Viet Nam are seed-bearing.[6] It was previously reported that there were four specimens of this tree growing in Bank Hall Gardens, Lancashire, United Kingdom, but it has now been confirmed that they are in fact the Swamp or Bald Cypress from south-eastern USA, Taxodium distichum.


  1. Thomas, P.; Yang, Y.; Farjon, A.; Nguyen, D. & Liao, W. (2010). "Glyptostrobus pensilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2 January 2014. Database entry includes justification for why this species is critically endangered.
  2. "Cupressaceae Rich. ex Bartling 1830". The Gymnosperm Database. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  3. "Glyptostrobus Endl.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-07-17. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  4. "Glyptostrobus pensilis (Staunton ex D. Don) K. Koch". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2006-11-07. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  5. "Glyptostrobus pensilis (Staunton ex D. Don) K. Koch". Flora of China. Science Press (Beijing) & Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis). Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  6. "Another leap towards the Barometer of Life". International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 10 November 2011.
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