The Gymnosperm Database


An ornamental tree at Yatton Park, Tauranga, New Zealand [C.J. Earle, 2003.03.03].


Foliage from the above tree [C.J. Earle, 2003.03.03].


Seed cone [Michael Frankis, ca. 2002].


Bark of an ornamental specimen in Auckland, New Zealand [C.J. Earle, 2003.03.12].


Illustration at the Flora of China website (Wu and Raven 1999).


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Conservation status

Glyptostrobus pensilis

(Staunton ex D.Don) K.Koch 1873

Common names

Water pine, shui song [Chinese] (Cheng and Fu 1978), Chinese deciduous cypress, Canton water pine (Dallimore et al. 1967), Thông nuóc, Thuy tùng, H'ral [Vietnamese] (FIPI 1996).

Taxonomic notes

The sole species in Glyptostrobus Endlicher 1847.



Tree 20-30 m tall and 60-70(-120) cm dbh. Crown conical, lower branches spreading, upper ones more erect. Air roots grow from lateral roots, and spread up to 6-7 m around the base of tree. Bark thick, greyish-brown, longitudinally fissured. Shoots of two kinds, long and short. Leaves delicate green when young, rich brown in autumn; those on the long shoots (representing fruiting branchlets and mature persistent vegetative branchlets) overlapping and scale-like; those on the short shoots (representing terminal barren branchlets) needle-like, sickle-shaped, enlarged at the base, quadrangular in cross section, 8-12 mm long, on one-year shoots and young trees 2-ranked. Pollen cones terminal on short shoots. Ovulate cones terminal on lateral shoots, pear-shaped or ovate, 12-18 mm long, stalked, disintegrating. Cone scales obovate, thin, bearing wart-like, sub-apical teeth and a small, triangular mucro above their centre. Seeds ovate or oblong, 5-6 mm long, thin-coated and terminated by a hatchet-shaped wing about 3 mm long. Cotyledons 4-5 (Dallimore et al. 1967, Vidakovic 1991, FIPI 1996).

Similar to Taxodium, from which it differs in having pear-shaped, long-stalked cones, obovate scales, and small-winged seeds (Dallimore et al. 1967).

Distribution and Ecology

China: Guangzhou, usually in low, damp, riparian areas (Dallimore et al. 1967, Vidakovic 1991); Vietnam. Formerly, it was common in many provinces of Vietnam, now only found in some places of Dac Lac province (Ea H' Leo and Krong Buk districts). Grows as a dominant tree in permanently inundated swampy forest, sometimes in pure stands (FIPI 1996). Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

The largest measurement I have seen reported is 25.2 m tall and 102 cm dbh for a tree at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens in New Zealand (New Zealand Notable Trees CR/1071, 2012.12.26). The largest reported in the U.S. is 19.8 m tall and 44.7 cm dbh (65 ft by 55.25 in girth), for a tree in the Arboretum at the University of California, Davis (Arthur L. Jacobson email 2007.08.24).




The timber is highly valued, aromatic with fine texture, resistant to termites and insects, easy to work. Used for cabinet work, fine art articles, musical instruments, office furniture, and turnery. The root is soft and spongy and can be used for making corks and life buoys FIPI 1996.


The species is not uncommon in warm-temperate or subtropical botanical gardens and arboreta, but I have no information on finding it in habitat.


Has "breathing roots" as in Taxodium (Vidakovic 1991).

Listed as threatened in Viet Nam by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Fewer than 100 individuals still exist and they must be effectively protected in Krong Buk Nature Reserve and developed by vegetative production FIPI 1996.


See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

BotanyVN. 2010. Preliminary Observation of Native Glyptostrobus pensilis (Taxodiaceae) Stands in Vietnam., accessed 2015.10.17.

Fagen L. I. and Nianhe X. I. A. 2005. Population structure and genetic diversity of an endangered species, Glyptostrobus pensilis (Cupressaceae). Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica 46:155-162. Available, accessed 2015.10.17.

Farjon (2005).

Hiep et al. 2004.

Luu and Thomas (2004) provide a recent description, range map, conservation status, drawings and photos, and a wealth of additional information.

Wu and Raven (1999).

Last Modified 2017-12-29