Plant of the Month

Pseudolarix amabilis (J.Nelson) Rehder

Chinese Golden Larch, False Larch, Golden Pine

Pinaceae

Etymology

Genus: Pseudolarix — from the Greek, pseudo, false and Larix in reference to the generic name of the larch trees, to which this taxon is not closely
related though it bears some resemblance.
Species: amabilis — from the Latin for ‘pleasing’.

Distribution 

South-eastern China in the Lower Yangtze River area. The natural distribution is difficult to determine as this tree has been in cultivation for
more than 1000 years. One suggestion is that the natural habitat is restricted to northern Zhejiang Province though Fujian, Hunan and Jiangxi are also suggested. The overall population is in decline.
Fossils identical to the living species can be traced to the Early Cretaceous (145 million years ago) and possibly to the Late Jurassic (152 mya), and occur across North America and Eurasia.

Native habitat

Lowland, warm-temperate forest from 180 to 1,000 m altitude on a variety of well-watered, deep, acidic soils with good drainage.

Description

A slow-growing, light-demanding tree reaching 40 m in the wild and less in cultivation. Bright green leaves in summer turn yellow to golden and then rusty-orange for just a week in April and fall cleanly revealing a straight trunk with evenly spaced horizontal branches.

Cone Production

Female cones formed in early [Jan – Apr] 2014 on the Explorers Walk tree.

Location in Garden 

Plant Explorers Walk, upper section, Bed EW120.
Conifer Species, bed CS199, below the large pond and just above the lowest garden road.

Information 

Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, a detailed survey of existing trees is needed and it is possible that it may then be upgraded to Endangered.
Past logging; lack of regeneration; land clearance; isolated, small populations and lack of protected areas have all contributed to the
threatened status of this species.

Robert Fortune, one of our featured Plant Explorers, sent plant material collected in 1853 from near a monastery in Can-cin, in Zhejiang, China to establish this plant’s history in Western cultivation. Our Plant Explorers Walk specimen came to us in 1991 from Bob Cherry who collected the source material in 1989. 

The tree in the Conifer Species beds was purchased from Yamina Rare Plants in 1989 and planted by students of Bilpin Public School on Arbor Day, July 1992.