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Tree in habitat, Wuyi Mountains, Fujian [Vladimir Dinets, 2006].

line drawing

Line drawing at the Flora of China (Wu and Raven 1999).

Photo of pollen at China Science Database.

 

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Conservation status

Pseudolarix amabilis

(J. Nelson) Rehder 1919

Common names

Golden larch (Farjon 1990), 金钱松 jin qian song [Chinese] (Wu and Raven 1999).

Taxonomic notes

Syn. for the genus Pseudolarix: Laricopsis Kent 1900 non Fontaine 1889; Chrysolarix H.E. Moore 1965.

Syn for the sole species, Pseudolarix amabilis (Farjon 1998):

Description

Trees monopodial, deciduous, to 40 m tall and 150 (rarely 300) cm dbh. Bark gray-brown, rough, flaking, breaking into thick, square scales. Crown broadly domed, but often irregular and open. Trunk straight, round, with irregular whorls of long, spreading, horizontal to ascending branches. Branches irregularly to about the 5th or 6th order, the smallest branches drooping at the ends; overall, habit resembles Cedrus more than Larix. Branchlets are strongly dimorphic, though less so than in Larix. The long shoots usually develop from 1-2 year old short shoots; their leaves are spirally arranged and radially spreading. They are initially reddish brown or reddish yellow, glossy, glabrous, becoming yellowish gray, brownish gray, or rarely purplish brown in 2nd or 3rd year, finally gray or dark gray. The short shoots develop from axillary buds on long shoots; their leaves are radially arranged in false whorls of 10-30 (often spirally spread like a discoid star). Most short shoots do not produce long shoots and instead grow 2-3 mm/yr, to a maximum length of about 3.5 cm. The winter buds are ovoid, scales free at apex. Leaves are blue-green adaxially, pale green abaxially, slightly curved or straight, flexible, turning golden yellow before falling in autumn, narrowly oblanceolate-linear, flattened, 2-5.5 cm × 1.5-4 mm (wider than in Larix), slightly keeled adaxially, with stomatal lines abaxial in 2 bands separated by midvein. There is 1 vascular bundle and 2-3(-7) marginal resin canals. Pollen cones are terminal on short shoots in umbellate clusters of 10-25, becoming pendant at maturity. The pollen, shed in April, is 2-saccate, resembling Abies and Pinus but not Larix pollen. Seed cones resemble those of Keteleeria more than any other genus. They are green or purple-green, maturing reddish brown, obovoid or ovoid, 5-7.5 × 4-5 cm, solitary, erect, shortly pedunculate, and terminal on short shoots; they develop and mature in a single year, at the end of which the rachis breaks up and the cone disintegrates (this is different from Abies and Cedrus, which have dehiscent scales on a persistent rachis). The 18-30 seed scales are deltoid to ovate, thick, woody, wide-spreading, 2.8-3.5 × ca. 1.7 cm, with a longitudinal, central, densely pubescent ridge adaxially, exposing the seedwing before maturity but not releasing the seed until the cone breaks up. Bract scales are ovate-lanceolate, 1/4-1/3 as long as seed scales, margin denticulate, adnate to seed scales at the base and shed together with them at maturity. Seeds are white, ovoid 6-7 mm, with resin vesicles on each side; they mature in October. The seed wing is light yellow or brownish yellow, glossy adaxially, triangular-lanceolate, circa 2.5 cm long, extends beyond the scale margin at maturity. The seeds have epigeal germination, producing 4-7 cotyledons. Diploid, 2n = 44 (Farjon 1990, Wu and Raven 1999).

Distribution and Ecology

China: the native range is unclear but probably the lower Chang Jiang valley: N Fujian, Hunan, N Jiangxi, and N Zhejiang; it has long been cultivated in S Anhui, W Hubei, S Jiangsu, and E Sichuan. Found at elevations of 100-1000 m (to 1500 m on Jiuling Shan) in areas with a warm temperate climate and 1500-2000 mm annual precipitation, with no dry season. Occurs as a component of evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests. Along the lower Chiang Jiang it is found with Acer spp., Carpinus spp., Catalpa ovata, Celtis spp., Quercus spp., Rhus spp., Juglans cathayensis, Nyssa sinensis, Ulmus spp., and other broadleaf trees. On Lu Shan in Jiangxi it is a canopy codominant in a seral (logged) forest with Pinus massoniana, P. tabulaeformis, Pterocarya spp., Platycarpa strobilacea and other species (Farjon 1990, Wu and Raven 1999).

Determining the native range of this and some other old Chinese trees (e.g. Ginkgo biloba) is problematic because old native forests were in some areas only preserved in the vicinity of Buddhist temples, yet at the same time ornamentals would be planted into these forests. Since this sort of thing has been going on for about a thousand years, it is often hard to tell if a tree established naturally or was planted. Notwithstanding, there are sites where the tree is definitely occurring due to natural regeneration (Farjon 1990).

Hardy to Zone 6 (cold hardiness limit between -23.2°C and -17.8°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree

Oldest

Dendrochronology

As of 2006.07, there was no record of this species ever having been used for dendrochronology.

Ethnobotany

The wood has been used for furniture, boats, and bridges. It is most common, though, as an attractive ornamental tree with striking golden foliage in the fall (Wu and Raven 1999). It is particularly useful in warm humid climates where Larix will not thrive, and is also quite a popular species for bonsai (Examples).

Observations

Vladimir Dinets reports (email 2006.09.26) that it is easily located in the Wuyi Shan of Fujian, and in the Lushan of Jiangxi. Mixed mesophytic forests have been set aside as protected reserves on the Tienmu Shan and Lu Shan, and these include some of the most diverse temperate forests on earth. The Tienmu Shan forest includes 12 conifers species, and Ginkgo (Farjon 1990).

Remarks

The species was introduced to the western world via Robert Fortune's first visit to China in 1853 where he encountered massive trees 30-40 m tall and up to 150 cm dbh planted near the monastery of Can-cin in Zhejiang (Farjon 1990).

Citations

Moore, H. E., Jr. 1965. Chrysolarix, a new name for the golden larch. Baileya 13(3): 131-134.

Rehder, A. 1919. New species, varieties and combinations from the Herbarium and the Collections of the Arnold Arboretum. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 1:44-60 (p. 53).

See also

Page at China Science Database (accessed 2011.01.14).

Li, H.L. 1968. The Golden Larch, Pseudolarix amabilis. Morris Arboretum Bulletin 19(2):19-25.

Last Modified 2012-11-28