We often read in the news about how different types of animals are in decline and being listed as endangered, but did you know that trees can be endangered too?
There are several ways that an endangered species is categorized, threatened, endangered, and critically endangered. A critically endangered species is one considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. These species of plant and animal are often given the most attention. These are 5 of the most critically endangered trees that need our help the most.
The Honduran rosewood tree is one of 300 types of rosewood. It’s found in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. It is has a unique and beautiful purple coloration to its wood which makes it a prime target for logging operations. Slash-and-burn agriculture, where forests are burned down to make room for fields, also represents a danger to the Honduran rosewood.
Protections have been put in place to keep the Honduran rosewood from going extinct. In 2013, it was listed on the CITES Appendix II, which means that it cannot be exported unless there is proof that the tree was harvested sustainably. Other anti-logging and reforestation campaigns are working tirelessly to protect the trees.
Saint Helena Gumwood
Gumwoods were once found all over Saint Helena, a small Island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Angola. Once settled by Europeans, the trees were widely cut down for fuel and building materials.
The tree was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered on a remote cliffside in 1982. That tree was unfortunately killed during a storm in 1986, causing the IUCN to consider it extinct again. Since then, one more wild tree has been found.
Preserving the tree is incredibly difficult. New seedlings have to be self-pollinated, which is done by hand spreading pollen from one flower to the next. Only 1 in 10,000 pollen grains will successfully fertilize a seed.
In 2010, 500 saplings were planted and are being successfully pollinated by insects in the world. They are now producing natural offspring and are thriving in a small, protected area.
The Pritchardia kaalae, or loulu tree, is a palm tree that grows on the western part of Oahu in Hawaii. It is a difficult species of tree to protect as it grows only in very specific places. It can be found growing near springs in the dry forests on the Waianae Range at 2,500 feet. It grows slowly, making conservation efforts somewhat tedious. In 1998, it was discovered that fewer than 130 remained in the wild.
Centuries ago, the loulu tree was cut down and used to make spears by Indigenous Hawaiians. Today, its primary threats are invasive rodents eating the seeds of the trees before they can germinate.
The African Baobab
The Baobab trees of Africa are iconic for their odd shapes and stunning features. Unfortunately, they are incredibly susceptible to climate change and other human activities. The land they grow on is rapidly becoming farmland. There are active efforts to conserve the trees, but to date, only 99 trees are known to remain in the wild.
Along the Apalachicola River in Florida you can find the Florida Yew growing. It’s a small tree that measured up to about 6 meters that grows on bluffs and in ravines along the river. The trees have been in decline for the last 20 years, as the number of seedlings taking root are being surpassed by the number of trees being destroyed.
These trees are not endangered due to human activities. It’s actually a mystery at this time why the tree can’t seem to regenerate itself. The trees are immensely important to humans though. The bark contains a chemical called taxol which is useful in combating cancer in humans.