The Critically Endangered, monotypic Euryodendron excelsum H.T. Chang (Family Theaceae), is endemic to southern China, to the Bajia region of Guangdong Province. This rare species is ranked as the second most threatened species in China and is subject to national protection. Supported by the National Science Foundation of China, the Plant Science Institute of Yunnan University has been carrying out conservation research and reintroduction actions for E. excelsum. We have found that the species is now present in only one remnant, highly fragmented population, with 179 individuals. The species has no clonal growth and propagates only by seeds. The major threats to the species’ survival are its small population size and the high frequency of destruction by people. As seedling survival appears to be poor, the conservation of E. excelsum needs to include the protection of its habitat and of the remnant individuals, and artificial propagation and ex situ seedling establishment for a future reintroduction programme.
In February 2009 seeds were collected and germinated in a greenhouse at Yunnan University. About 2,000 seedlings had successfully propagated by October, when c. 300 seedlings of c. 12 cm height were then transplanted to the species’ original range. At the same time seedlings were planted in Hekou county and Xishuangbana Botanical Garden. By July 2012, nearly 3 years later, the transplanted seedlings had grown to a height of c. 150 cm, with c. 40, 80 and 70% survival in Bajia, Hekou county and Xishuangbana Botanical Garden, respectively.
These conservation studies and actions will help with the design of conservation and reintroduction strategies for E. excelsum. The Plant Science Institute of Yunnan University is now carrying out further studies on the conservation and reintroduction of this species. The ultimate aim is to restore E. excelsum to the wild.