The Gymnosperm Database


A large tree growing in native habitat [© Simon G. Haberle] (Haberle and Bennett 1999).


A sapling in typical bog habitat, Patagonia [Jeff Bisbee, 2013.02].


Branches and bark on a tree in habitat, Patagonia [Jeff Bisbee, 2013.02].


Foliage and mature seed cones on a tree in habitat [Jeff Bisbee, 2013.02].

See also the extensive photo gallery (under the name Libocedrus uvifera) published by Jeff Bisbee in Bulletin 10 of the Cupressus Conservation Project.


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Conservation status

Libocedrus uvifera

(D. Don) Pilger 1926

Common names

Ciprès de la Guaitecas (in Chile); Ten (in Argentina) (Farjon 2005).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Juniperus uvifera D. Don ex Lambert 1828; Libocedrus tetragona (Hooker) Endl.; Thuja tetragona Hooker; Pilgerodendron uviferum (D. Don) Florin 1930 (under which name it is monotypic in Pilgerodendron Florin 1930).

There has been a long-running debate about whether this species belongs in a distinct genus (Pilgerodendron) or is a species within Libocedrus. Reasons for treating it as a genus include:

When Farjon (2005) treated Pilgerodendron as a distinct genus, it was still a viable classification, but subsequent genetic work has now included at least two studies (Gadek et al. 2000, Leslie et al. 2012) securely placing it within a clade containing the other species of Libocedrus. Moreover, the age-calibrated phylogeny of Leslie et al. (2012) suggests that this taxon diverged from its nearest neighbor in early Neogene time, which is considerably later than the loss of any land-based connection between the current distributions of Libocedrus and Pilgerodendron. That in turn suggests either a dispersal event across the Pacific, or that more Libocedrus-like congeners formerly existed in South America; the latter explanation seems more plausible, as I am not aware of any good documentation of conifer dispersal across oceanic barriers. In this case the only good argument for maintaining Pilgerodendron is vicariant speciation, which seems weak in view of the genetic and morphological evidence placing it within a Libocedrus clade.

The type specimen was in Lambert's herbarium, which has been lost. Farjon (2005) designates as neotype L. Savatier 140 (K!), which contains branchlets with foliage and seed cones.


Evergreen, dioecious shrubs and trees to 20 m tall and 150 cm DBH (but usually much smaller) with horizontally spreading and upcurving branches forming a crown that is conical in young trees, becoming rounded or irregular in old trees. Bark dark brown, peeling in long strips. Ultimate twigs slender, stiff, bearing a dense coverage of imbricate scale leaves producing a strongly quadrangular appearance. Leaves decussate, imbricate, short-decurrent at base, in 4(-6) rows, broad-lanceolate, the free part reflexed, 2.5-6 × 1-2.2 mm on ultimate twigs but up to twice as large on older twigs; margins entire, apex obtuse, dark green with a whitish stomatal band on the adaxial side. Pollen cones terminal, solitary, cylindrical, 5-10 × 2-2.5 mm, straight or curved, yellow-green maturing yellow-brown, with 12-20 triangular to rhombic microsporophylls. Seed cones terminal, each subtended by 4 decussate long narrow leaves, comprised of 4 bract-scale complexes, 8-12 × 4-6 mm with spreading scales, maturing within 1 year. Seeds 3-4 per cone, conical/triangular, 3 × 1.5-2 mm, yellow-brown with 2 very unequal marginal wings, the larger being 6-7 × 3-3.5 mm. The acicular juvenile foliage is only seen on seedlings (Moore 1983, Farjon 2005).

Distribution and Ecology

Western Chile, at latitudes from 39.5° to 54° S in the coastal and Andes ranges; also western Argentina from 41° to 47° S in the Chubut, Neuquén, Rio Negro, and Santa Cruz districts on the E slope of the Andes. Usually occurs as a codominant tree in Drimys-Nothofagus betuloides coastal forest or locally dominant in open stands on sheltered lowland bogs further inland, at 20-750 m elevation. Common associates include also in association with species of Nothofagus and the conifers Fitzroya cupressoides, Lepidothamnus fonkii, and Saxegothaea conspicua (Moore 1983, WCMC 1998, Farjon 2005). Due to its great longevity and tolerance for bog soils, L. uvifera bog forests are a stable vegetation type that may persist for millennia, although it is vulnerable to rare, severe fire (Bannister et al. 2012).

Distribution data, compiled from various herbarium records available online.

This is probably the southernmost conifer in the world (the second most southerly is Lepidothamnus fonkii, also in Chile, and incidentally the smallest of all conifers). In northern parts of its range it is commonly associated with Fitzroya (Farjon 1998).

L. uvifera is vulnerable to habitat loss and exploitation. The WCMC (1998) reports: "Large-scale destruction of the forest during colonial times and the widespread opening up of the lowland areas have led to the [extirpation] of the species from most of its original distribution. It is slow to mature and its regeneration is very poor, especially under a canopy." The species is fully protected under Appendix I of CITES (the Convention On International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna And Flora).

Big tree

Farjon (2005) reports that specimens up to 300 cm dbh may have existed in historic times.


Ages to 880 years are reported by Bannister et al. (2012), who also note that mature trees commonly produce rings less than 1 mm wide.


Some work has been done, notably by Julian Szeicz, who found trees more than 500 years old (Haberle and Bennett 1999).


The species has a decay-resistant wood and was formerly exploited for construction, leading to a great reduction in its area of occupancy and its current "vulnerable" conservation status (Farjon 2005).



"Uviferum" is a most unusual epithet and means "grape-bearer." It may refer to the female cones, which are scattered over the surface of terminal shoots in a pattern that might resemble a bunch of grapes.


Bannister, Jan R., Pablo J. Donoso, and Jürgen Bauhus. 2012. Persistence of the slow growing conifer Pilgerodendron uviferum in old-growth and fire-disturbed southern bog forests. Ecosystems 15(7):1158-1172.

Florin, R. 1930. Pilgerodendron, eine neue Koniferengattung aus Süd-Chile. Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift 24(1):132-135.

Haberle, Simon and Keith Bennett. 1999. Late Quaternary Environmental Dynamics of Southwestern Chile,, accessed 2000.02.02, now defunct.

Leslie, Andrew B., Jeremy M. Beaulieu, Hardeep S. Rai, Peter R. Crane, Michael J. Donoghue, and Sarah Mathews. 2012. Hemisphere-scale differences in conifer evolutionary dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(40):16217-16221.

WCMC [World Conservation Monitoring Centre - Trees]. 1998. Pilgerodendron uviferum,, accessed 1998.02.16, now defunct.

See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World (as Pilgerodendron).

Farjon (2005) provides a detailed account (of Pilgerodendron), with illustrations.

Last Modified 1969-12-31