Patagonian Cypress

Fitzroya cupressoides

Conservation Status: Endangered

Cause of Decline: Overexploitation

Location: South America

Collection: Plants

FMNH catalogue no. 1294957

The giant and majestic conifer tree, Patagonian cypress, can reach heights of up to 60 metres with a trunk diameter of five metres. Some specimens are estimated to be as old as 3600 years. The species occurs only in southern Chile and Argentina’s Patagonia, in temperate Valdivian rainforests.

Historically, the wood from F. cupressoides has been prized – it is very resilient and lightweight (items made with its wood that are up to 150 years old are still in good condition) – and has been logged in Chile since the end of the 16th century. By the early 1900s, a third of the Patagonian cypress population had been decimated and, due to its slow regeneration, the species has not significantly recovered.

In 1976, Chile declared F. cupressoides a national monument, immediately making any further logging of it illegal. However, trees that are still standing but that died before 1976 are exempt from this law, resulting in somewhat of a grey area as some logging still continues. Research since 2003 attempts to uncover the optimum conditions in which Patagonia cypress can regenerate and thrive once again.

Patagonian Cypress plant botany Fitzroya cupressoides - Extinction

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