The Gymnosperm Database

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Line drawing; for full size image go to the Flora of China (Fu et al. 1999).

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Foliage drawing from the The Gardener's Chronicle of April 1903 (Tripp 1995).


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Conservation status

Cephalotaxus oliveri

Masters 1898

Common names

篦子三尖杉 bi zi san jian shan [Chinese] (Fu et al. 1999). Vietnamese: Phi luoc bí (FIPI 1996).

Taxonomic notes


Shrubs or small trees to 4 m tall. Bark yellow to grayish brown, scaly. Twigs oblong-elliptic in outline, plane, 7-9 × 3.5-5 cm. Leaves borne at 55-70° to branchlet axis; petiole ca. 0.5 mm; blade dull matt green adaxially, linear-lanceolate, ± straight or very slightly falcate, strongly convex, (1.5-) 1.6-2.5(-3.2) cm × 2.3-3.2 mm, hard and leathery, midvein ca. 0.8-1 mm wide, stomatal bands on abaxial surface 0.8-1 mm wide abaxially, of 13-17 rows of stomata, as wide as (rarely wider than) midvein and marginal bands, marginal bands ca. 0.8 mm wide, base shallowly cordate or cordate-truncate, margin flat, apex obtuse, shortly cuspidate, cusp often breaking off. Pollen cone capitula axillary, borne on lower side and toward the ends of terminal branches; buds developing before the subtending leaves expand; 6-10 microsporophylls, each with 3-4 pollen sacs. Seeds cones solitary; peduncle ca. 6 mm. Seed obovoid, ovoid, or almost globose, 2.2-2.7 × 1.4-1.8 cm, apex with small mucro. Pollination March-April, seed maturity August-October. 2n = 24 (Fu et al. 1999).

Distribution and Ecology

China: N Guangdong, Guizhou, W Hubei, Hunan, E Jiangxi, S and W Sichuan (especially Emei Shan), E Yunnan (Farjon 1998, Fu et al. 1999). Also placed by some authorities (Dallimore et al. 1967, Tripp 1995, FIPI 1996) in Thailand; Laos; Vietnam, and E India. Fu et al. (1999) refer the Vietnam records to C. mannii; it seems likely then that the Thailand, Laos and India distribution is also questionable.

In China it is commonly found in coniferous and broad-leaved forests at altitudes of 300-1800 m (Fu et al. 1999).

Hardy to Zone 8 (cold hardiness limit between -12.1°C and -6.7°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree




The vegetative parts are rich in anticancer alkaloids (Tripp 1995).


It could probably be found on Emei Shan in Sichuan, where it was discovered by Faber in 1900 (Dallimore et al. 1967). The Emei Shan area is world-famous as a site of botanical interest and is a popular destination for foreign travelers. It also should be possible to see at the Bidoup and Langbian Nature Reserves in Vietnam (FIPI 1996); however, I know nothing of the accessibility of these reserves to foreign visitors. It is not recorded as being grown in the U.S. or U.K. (Tripp 1995).


Endangered thoughout its range (Tripp 1995); listed as threatened/endangered in Vietnam by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. It requires protection in its natural habitat, especially in the Bidoup and Langbian Nature Reserves (FIPI 1996).


See also

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Last Modified 2017-12-29