Successful germination of threatened species

Seedlings of the rare Vietnamese Golden Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis) have germinated for the first time outside of Vietnam with assistance from our seed laboratory

News from Forest Research: February 2012

Seedlings of the rare Vietnamese Golden Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis)

Seedlings of the rare Vietnamese Golden Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis) have germinated for the first time outside of Vietnam. This achievement – the first ever successful propagation of the rare and critically endangered species – was achieved at Bedgebury Pinetum, with assistance from Forest Research’s seed laboratory.

In 1999, the Golden Cypress became the world’s most recently discovered conifer genus. Fewer than 500 individual trees are known to exist in its native country, making it a high priority for conservation. The Centre for Plant Conservation (CPC) in Hanoi has been attempting to germinate seeds in order to boost the population of this species, but with little success.

In 2009 Forest Research tree seed specialist Matt Parratt travelled to Vietnam to help establish what the problem was. He was able to advise on how to identify the best cones to collect seeds from as well as the optimum time to do so.

Following his visit, CPC Scientist Nguyen Quang Hieu brought some seeds to the UK. Forest Research has a well established and newly refurbished seed laboratory that was able to use X-ray techniques to examine the seeds and determine which ones contained embryos and which were empty or dead. As a result, viable seeds were selected and planted in the nursery at Bedgebury in May 2011.

So far fourteen seedlings have germinated and are the only surviving seedlings in a nursery anywhere in the world. In four years they will hopefully be mature enough to be planted out in the Pinetum, joining nine other Golden Cypresses grown from cuttings donated by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and planted in 2005. Despite the much colder British climate, these specimens are doing well. The lessons learnt on how to germinate and grow these rare trees from seed will be shared with CPC in Vietnam to enable them to produce seedlings to reinforce populations in Vietnam and support the conservation of the species in the wild.

For more information, contact Matt Parratt.

See also seed and seedling biology

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This and other news stories can be found in the Winter 2011/2012 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.