BIG TREE RHODODENDRON
Common Name: Big Tree Rhododendron
Scientific Name: Rhododendron protistum var. giganteum
Why is this species important?
In keeping with its name, the Big Tree rhododendron is the largest rhododendron in the world - a giant reaching up to 20-25m in height and around 1 metre in diameter.
Where is it found?
The species is only known in the wild with any certainty from Gaoligongshan mountain in south west Yunnan, China, although there are reports that it is also found in Myanmar.
How do people use it?
Rhododendrons are an important group horticulturally and the Big Tree rhododendron is popular as an ornamental plant. The size and beauty of Rhododendron protistum var. giganteum may make it particularly at risk from people wishing to collect seeds and seedlings for ornamental use.
Why is it threatened?
Fewer than 100 trees are thought to exist at Gaoligongshan, and the variety is considered Critically Endangered within China.
Although there are signs of regeneration, seedling mortality is very high in the wild and amongst seedlings translocated to a nursery.
What conservation action is needed?
Despite its distinctiveness, little is known of the biology and ecology of the tree in the wild but its low population numbers and very restricted area of occurrence mean it is a high priority for conservation.
A lack of knowledge of this species in the wild is a major barrier to its effective conservation. Surveys, research and monitoring of the wild population in Gaoligongshan is an immediate priority for the conservation of this species.
In 2010 the Global Trees Campaign, in partnership with Kunnming Institute of Botany and local nature reserve staff, began work to improve understanding of the ecology of the species, how to protect it and how to promotoe its regeneration. For more information please visit the project page here.
Back to Tree Profiles