Cathaya Genus

1 Species

Cathaya, as described in 1962 by Woon Young Chun and Ko Rjên Kuang in Acta Botanica Sinica 10(3), is a genus of conifer in the Pinaceae family and has one known living species, Cathaya argyrophylla. Cathaya is a member of the subfamily Laricoideae, most closely related to Pseudotsuga and Larix. A second species, C. nanchuanensis, is now treated as a synonym, as it does not differ from C. argyrophylla in any characteristics. The genus name honors this conifer's place of origin. Cathay is a historic name for what's now China.

One or two botanists, unhappy with the idea of a new genus in such a familiar family, tried to shoehorn it into other existing genera, as Pseudotsuga argyrophylla and Tsuga argyrophylla. It is however very distinct from both of these genera, and these combinations are not now used.

Description. The leaves are needle-like, measuring 1 to 2 inches (2.5 - 5 cm) long. They have ciliate (hairy) margins when young, and grow around the stems in a spiral pattern. The seed cones measure 1.2 to 2 inches (3 - 5 cm) long, and comprised of about 15 to 20 cone scales, each bearing two winged seeds.

Distribution. Cathaya is confined to a limited area in southern China — the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan and southeastern Sichuan. It is found on steep, narrow mountain slopes at elevations of 3,000 to 5,800 feet (950 - 1,800 m) above sea level, on limestone soils. A larger population has been reduced by over-cutting before its scientific discovery and protection in 1950.

Fossils of extinct species of Cathaya are abundant in European brown coal deposits dating from between 10 to 30 million years ago.

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia has one of the oldest specimens in North America. As of 2014, this genus is beginning to appear in more of the larger conifer collections around the world.

Attribution from: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

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