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Biodiversity protection, sustainable crop production, and fair trade in China and Asia's Mekong Region
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Dr. Ulrich Apel
Table of Contents
1. Background and Objective of the Assignment *
2. Findings *
2.1 Physical geography of Xishuangbanna *
2.2 Factors influencing forest structure and species composition in Xishuangbanna *
2.3 Forest formations and local vegetation types in Xishuangbanna *
2.4 Main plant families and species in Xishuangbanna *
3. Conclusion and Recommendations *
a.s.l. above sea level
DBH diameter at breast height (1.3 m)
MEBF montane evergreen broad-leaved forest
TEF tropical evergreen rainforest
TS-EF tropical semi-evergreen (monsoon) forest
1. Background and Objective of the Assignment
Since 1998, the Tropical Forest Ecosystems Management Project (TEFM) has collected extensive material about biodiversity in Xishuangbanna and documented with photographs for the purpose of biodiversity monitoring and documentation of the biodiversity in the project pilot sites. The documentation focussed on birds, butterflies, reptiles, orchids, ferns, and non-timber forest products used by the ethnic minorities. However, forest types and its main tree species have not been sufficiently covered so far.
The objective of this short-term assignment was to conduct a survey on the main forest types in Xishuangbanna and to describe their main representative plant families and tree species as well as other characteristic plants such as palms, climbers, and bamboo. The species were to be described in text and with photographs to serve future needs for publication in print or websites. As Xishuangbanna is a biosphere reserve, the links between the ethnic groups living in this area and the biodiversity were to be regarded and traditional uses made of the native plants investigated (see also ANNEX 1: Terms of Reference).
This short-term consultancy has been carried out from 4 28 February, 2001. The consultant based the survey on the available literature about Xishuangbanna´s and adjacent forest ecosystems,,,, as well as on own investigations.
Xishuangbanna is located in the southernmost tip of Yunnan province bordering Myanmar in the Southwest and Laos in the Southeast. It covers an area of about 20,000 km_. Altitudes range between 410 2,400 m a.s.l. The terrain is hilly to montane with average altitudes between 800 and 1000 m. Almost all streams are tributaries of the Mekong which bisects Xishuangbanna from North to South.
The climate is strongly seasonal with two main air masses alternating during the year: between May and October the South-West Monsoon delivers about 80% of the annual rainfall, whereas the dry and cold air of the Southern edges of the jet streams dominate the climate between November and April. Annual rainfall varies between 1200 mm in the Mekong valley and 1900 mm in altitude above 1500 m. Although the rainfall is very seasonal the dry season is not extreme in nature. Fog with an average duration of 6 hours occurs on about 130 days, mainly in the dry season.
The seasonal climate coupled with the complex topography has resulted in a natural vegetation pattern consisting of both evergreen and deciduous forest patches and resulting in high species diversity. A long history of human interaction has further influenced the forests that prevail today. The structure and species composition in a particular forest patch depends on three main factors: moisture, altitude, and human interaction.
The moisture of a particular site is strongly related to rainfall, topography, and geology. Although lowland areas have less rainfall, plants can often access ground water. In Xishuangbanna, fog in valley and lowland areas provides moisture in the dry season. Valleys and concave slopes provide more moist conditions than ridges and convex slopes. Exposition to North usually provides moist and shady conditions for a longer period of time. The best soils for retaining moisture available to plants have a high content of organic matter and a balanced proportion of sand, silt and clay.
Plants that are not confined to water supply throughout the year have developed approaches to avoid excessive water loss. Typical for monsoon forest in Xishuangbanna is the deciduous habit of the emergent trees that shed their leaves in the dry season. In higher elevation with sandy soils, a sclerophyllus habit is common. The dominant tree species have developed thick leaves with waxy coating to reduce water loss.
Highland areas have lower temperatures than lowland areas. The occurrence of frost causes sharp transitions in the vegetation. In Xishuangbanna frost days are likely above 1200 m. More rainfall in higher elevations does not necessarily provide more moisture to plants. Sandy and poor soils in higher elevation cause less available water for plants. Topography continues to play a significant role with exposed ridges and shady valleys supporting different vegetation than intermediate areas.
Human interaction plays a very important role in Xishuangbanna, which has been inhabited by different ethnic groups probably since more than 4000 years. Each ethnic group has developed its characteristic forms of land use shaping the environment they live in. The interactions with the forest include shifting cultivation, timber and fuelwood harvesting, cultivation in the forest, collection of various non-timber forest products, and religious motivated protection of designated forest patches and certain species as well as the introduction of exotic plants.
The main ethnic group, the Dai are well known for preserving holy hills and large strangler figs out of religious motivation. The Dai have introduced many species related to Buddhism that are now common in Xishuangbanna, such as Dipterocarpus turbinatus, Ficus religiosa, and Mesua ferrea. The fast-growing Cassia siamea has been introduced for fuelwood production in a coppice system and taken up by other ethnic groups. Cultivation of Amomum villosum under the forest canopy has changed the forest structure in many village forests in Xishuangbanna. The selective cutting of timber with good wood properties for house building has led to changes in species composition in most village forest areas. Species like Ficus spp., Gmelina arborea, and Schima wallichii are more common after disturbances in the natural forest.
Hill tribes such as Hani, Yao, Lahu, Yi and Jinuo practise shifting cultivation, whereas Kemu and Kucong are predominantly hunters and gatherers. The Jinuo cultivate tee under the forest cover leading to characteristic coppice forests with by huge emergents. Shifting cultivation systems practised by these ethnic groups have led to high proportions of pioneer species such as Macaranga spp., Duabanga grandifolia, Anthocephalus chinensis, as well as Bamboo species. Furthermore, useful species with edible fruits etc. are often retained in shifting cultivation systems influencing species composition when the forest regenerates.
The survey identified three main forest formations and five local vegetation types in Xishuangbanna.
I Tropical evergreen rainforest (TEF)
Tropical evergreen rainforest occurs in Xishuangbanna in moist areas and in altitudes up to 800 m. In mature forest stands the largest trees reach up to 50 m in height, or more in the case of Parashorea chinensis. The middle storey is at 20-25 m; a well developed under storey can be found. Epiphytic ferns, orchids, and semi-epiphytes such as Schefflera spp. and Ficus spp. are abundant on the trees. These forests are dominated by members of the plant families Myristicaceae, Guttiferae, Lecythydaceae, Rubiaceae, and Meliaceae. Dipterocarpaceae (Parashorea chinensis, Vatica xishuangbannaensis) are only occurring in the south-eastern part of Xishuangbanna below 700 m. Besides the above mentioned Parashorea chinensis common species include Pometia tomentosa, Barringtonia macrostachya, Terminalia myriocarpa, Chisocheton siamensis, Tetrameles nudiflora, Metadina trichotoma, Horsfieldia glabra, Myristica yunnanensis, Knema spp., Garcinia spp., Mitrephora spp., Pittosporopsis kerrii, and Baccaurea ramiflora. Locally abundant palm species include Caryota ochlandra, Calamus spp., and Pinanga spp.
The occurrence of these tree families and species points to floristic similarities with rainforests in Southeast Asia. However, as Xishuangbanna is located at the northern margin of tropical SE Asia and is a transitional area between the tropics and subtropics, many typical tropical plants reach their distributional limits and some of the truly tropical plant families and genera that are rich in species in tropical SE Asia have only a few representatives here. Still, the TEF are the richest in terms of species diversity in Xishuangbanna. Species densities of 140 tree species (> 10 cm diameter DBH) per hectare are not uncommon in the Nature Reserves, because the forest flora is endowed with tree families and species of the subtropical flora of Southern China.
II Tropical semi-evergreen (monsoon) forest (TS-EF)
Monsoon forest prevails in altitudes between 800 m and 1000 m. Locally, where the climate shows a more distinctive seasonality it can be found below 800 m. The structure of these forests is characterised by a less closed canopy formed by emergents with big crowns which shed their leaves during the dry season, whereas the under story and middle story layer remains evergreen. In this transitional zone between evergreen tropical rainforest and subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest, a mix of evergreen and deciduous tree species can be found. Species densities reach up to of 80 100 tree species (> 10 cm DBH) per hectare. Typical tree families are Moraceae, Sapindaceae, Anacardiaceae, Tiliaceae, and Leguminosae. Common species include Ficus altissima, Toona sinensis, Nephelium chryseum, Altingia excelsa, Bischofia javanica, and Colona floribunda. On dryer sites Bombax ceiba, Erythrina stricta, and Bauhinia variegata are common.
III Montane evergreen broad-leaved forest (MEBF)
This montane evergreen formation is the characteristic and predominant vegetation type in Xishuangbanna covering altitudes between 1000 m and 2400 m, accounting for 80% of the forest area. The structure of these forests is simpler than in the lowland and monsoon forests, with very few emergents and poorly developed under story/shrub layers. The trees forming the canopy are almost entirely evergreen and reach a dense cover of 90% with a mean height of 20-25 m. Dominant tree families are Fagaceae and Lauraceae, mixed with Theaceae, Magnoliaceae, Myrtaceae, Juglandaceae, and Elaeocarpaceae. Common species include Castanopsis hystrix, C. mekongensis, Lithocarpus truncatus, Litsea glutinosa, Actinodaphne henryi, Schima wallichii, Syzygium yunnanensis, Elaeocarpus austro-yunnanensis, Paramichelia baillonii, Engelhardtia spp. Smaller trees in the under story include Machilus salicina, Olea rosea, Aporusa spp. Species densities range between 50 80 tree species (> 10 cm DBH) per hectare.
IV Local vegetation types
(1) Limestone forest
Limestone outcrops in Xishuangbanna mainly occur in an area around Menglun ranging from small pockets to larger massifs. Although very few species are restricted to limestone, these outcrops support interesting forest types and contain many species that have been eliminated in areas that are more accessible. Since limestone causes dryer conditions, Monsoon forest types are common also in lower elevations. Typical species are Ficus spp., Tetrameles nudiflora, Bauhinia variegata, and Mitrephora thorelii.
(2) Pine forest
Natural pine forests are found on an area of about 500 ha at altitudes between 1200 1800 m. Species diversities range from 10 15 tree species per hectare. The dominating species is Pinus khasya var. langbianensis which usually makes up 80% of the individual trees. The remaining 20% are a mixture of Lithocarpus sp., Quercus dentata, Schima wallichii, Betula alnoides, and Engelhardtia spicata.
(3) Bamboo forest
Bamboo forests occur at altitudes below 1000 m. They cover a quite large area, however, it is difficult to distinguish between naturally occurring bamboo forests and bamboo forest that are the result of various forms of degradation. Naturally, bamboo forests would probably cover less area. Main species include Dendrocalamus strictus, D. brandisii, Cephalostachyum pergracile, Indosasa sinica, Schizostachyum funghomii, and Dinochloa puberula a climbing species.
(4) River gallery forest
River gallery forests occur along small rivers below 700 m altitude, mainly along the Nanlahe, Nanmanhe, Nanmuyanghe, Mengyanghe, and the Luosojiang. The species composition is mainly influenced by the velocity of the running water and duration of flooding of the riverbanks. Characteristic tree species are Pterocarya tonkinensis, Ficus auriculata, F. heterophylla, F. gasparriniana var. esquirolii, Salix spp., Dillenia indica, Syzygium fluviatilis, Itea riparia, and Flemingia fluminales.
(5) Deciduous forest
Deciduous forests are only found on a small area of about 300 ha in Xishuangbanna between altitudes of 1400 2400 m. The canopy layer reaches about 30 m in height; the species diversity is low, reaching only about 10 species per hectare. These forests are almost completely dominated by Alnus nepalensis, which usually makes up more than 90% of the individual trees. Other tree species include Albizzia sp., Celtis sp., Melia toosenden, Castanopsis mekongensis, Prunus plurinervis, and Elsholtzia ciliata.
2.4 Main plant families and species in Xishuangbanna
The survey identified 28 plant families as the main elements of Xishuangbanna´s forest types. 26 families include mainly tree species, 2 families (Palmae and Gramineae) include palms and bamboo. The description of the species is structured along habit, botany (bark, leaves, flower, fruit), ecology, distribution, and uses. The description focuses on the ecology of the species, its habitat and association with other plants. Furthermore, uses of the different ethnic minorities have been included as far as it could be investigated.
The photographs taken cover the habit and botanical characteristics of the plants. Since flowering and fruiting periods of the different are very divers, only a few species could be fully documented with all their features. This will have to be continued by the TFEM project in the future.
For the description of the tree species kindly refer to ANNEX 2. For the photographs kindly refer to the separate ANNEX 3.
3. Conclusion and Recommendations
Although Xishuangbanna covers only a relatively small area of about 20,000 km_, the vegetation pattern is very divers. Three main forest formations and five vegetation types with local importance can be distinguished. Species diversity in all vegetation types is comparably high and many endemic plants can be found. However, the three main forest formations show clear floristic similarities to forests in the wider region. The tropical evergreen rainforest contains many floristic elements of rainforests in SE-Asia. The monsoon forest shows similarities to forests in India and Myanmar, and the montane evergreen broad-leaved forest is transitional to subtropical forests of Southern China.
Being inhabited by 14 ethnic groups, Xishuangbanna´s ecosystems have a varying degree of human interaction which is characterised by different forms of land and forest use of each ethnic group. Cultural links between the ethnic groups and the forest ecosystems have influenced the structure and floristic composition of the prevailing forests. In some cases these interactions have even enriched the ecosystems, in other cases the species diversity decreased. Xishuangbanna´s total area is a biosphere reserve. The protection of the forests has, therefore, to involve the ethnic groups.
In this context it is an important activity of the TFEM project to monitor and document biodiversity with special regard to the use and management of the forest by different ethnic groups. The survey conducted by the consultant provides an overview about the main vegetation types and its typical components. On this basis, the project should further collect useful information and add to this survey.
(Draft version 28/02/2001)
a picture documentation will be added, soon
Cosmopolitan family with 5 genera and 29 tree species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Gmelina arborea, Callicarpa arborea, Vitex quinata.
Habit: Deciduous tree, medium sized (up to 25 m height), fast growing.
Bark pale creamy brown or greyish. Leaves decussate, simple with a tip and slightly heart-shaped base. Flower yellow-brown, in narrow branched clusters, flowering February March. Fruit 2-3 cm, greenish-yellow, fleshy with a hard 1-2 seeded stone, fruiting April June.
Ecology: Can be found in TEF and TS-EF, especially in disturbed areas, prefers moist conditions. Often planted in Dai homegardens. Easy to be propagated through seedlings.
Distribution: Found in Jinghong and Mengla, also common in India, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.
Uses: valuable house building timber, flowers are used by the Dai to sweeten rice.
Note: Protected in China (class II).
Pantropical family with more than 1000 species. 7 genera and about 80 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Antiaris toxicaria, Artocarpus tonkinensis, Broussonetia payrifera, Ficus altissima, Ficus auriculata, Ficus variegata.
Habit: Mostly evergreen, strangling fig, up to 50 m in height, eventually becoming one of the largest trees in the forest.
Bark thin and smooth, light grey, cut parts with white latex. Leaves spirally arranged simple; 8-21 cm x 5-12 cm, elliptic to oblong, hairless; dark green above, below light green; midrib prominent. Flowers numerous, unisexual or sterile (gall), contained in the figs. Fruit at the end of the twigs, dimensions 1.7-2.8 cm, yellow-orange when ripe. Due to symbiosis with specific gall-wasp Ficus can produce figs several times a year.
Ecology: Occurs mainly in disturbed areas of TS-EF and MEBF. Sparsely occurs in TEF. The Species is light demanding. It begins life as an epiphyt on host trees through seeds dispersed by animals. Vigorous growth and strangling of the host after the roots have reached the soil. Ficus altissima is considered a "keystone species" in tropical ecosystems which support frugivore animal populations ranging from birds to small mammals through their enormous and asynchronous fructification.
Distribution: Widespread and common in Xishuangbanna; widely distributed in whole mainland Southeast Asia.
Uses: The tree is regarded as a holy tree by the Dai and many other ethnic groups. Its striking growth form and the special features of the pollination biology make Ficus altissima predestined to be a realm of spirits. Large specimen occur naturally in holy hills and sacred forests as well as planted near temples and pagodas. The wood is not used. Latex can be used to treat wounds.
Habit: Small independent growing evergreen tree, up to 12 m height with big crown and crooked trunk.
Leaves 15-37 x 11-30 cm, broadly ovate or almost circular with widely spaced blunt teeth. Figs 5-8 cm, densily clustered along short woody stumps hanging from main trunk and branches; red-brown or dark purple when ripening.
Ecology: Common in TEF, especially along streams. Planted in homegardens and around fishponds.
Distribution: Widespread in Xishuangbanna, also distributed in Northern Thailand and Southern China.
Uses: Edible fruits; many ethnic groups use young leaves as vegetable. The leaves are called "elephant ears" by the Dai.
Tree family with 680 species almost exclusively in Asia, concentrated in the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia. In Xishuangbanna 2 genera with 1 species each occur: Parashorea chinesis and Vatica xishuangbannaensis.
Habit: Large evergreen tree, up to 75 m height with tall straight bole and rather open crown. Small buttresses from 1 4.5 m height.
Bark: pale brown to grey, peeling in thin, rounded flakes. Leaves simple, alternate 6-20 x 3-8 cm, small stipules 0.5-1 cm. Flower yellow-white, flowering May-June. Fruit with 5 (3 long and 2 shorter) wings, fruiting Juli September.
Ecology: Restricted to TEF at lower altitudes (< 700 m a.s.l.). In stands where the species occurs, the trees almost entirely dominate the canopy layer. Natural regeneration is abundant; due to meristematic dormancy seedlings and small trees are shade-bearing for many years, with rapid growth in when gaps open. Grows together with Pometia tomentosa, Cinnamomum bejolghota, Chisocheton siamensis, Pittosporopsis kerrii, Garcinia spp., Baccaurea ramiflora, Pseudouvaria indochinensis. Experience with planting hardly exist. Seedling production is difficult, germination rates in nurseries low. Collection of wild seedlings and immediate potting in the forest is more successful.
Distribution: Occurs in Xishuangbanna confined to a small area inside the Mengla Nature Reserve. Also distributed in Northwestern Vietnam Muong Nhe Nature Reserve and Cuc Phuong National Park.
Uses: House building timber used by Hani and Dai ethnic groups. The timber is, however, not much valued by the local ethnic groups.
Note: Protected in China (class I).
Tree family with 59 species and an unusual distribution pattern North temperate, Malesia and South America. In Xihuangbanna 3 genera with 8 species. Common are Engelhardtia spicata and Pterocarya tonkinensis.
Habit: Briefly deciduous tree, medium big size, up to 25 m height.
Bark white greyish, cracked, inner bark fibrous. Leaves compound 10-18 cm, leaflets with teeth, 8-12 pairs. Flower minute, in slender branched catkins hanging from the twigs; flowering March-April. Fruit 2-winged, seeds 0.7 cm, fruiting Juli August.
Ecology: This species grows along rivers in gallery forests together with Ficus auriculata, F. heterophylla, and Salix spp.
Distribution: Very common along small rivers in Xishuangbanna; further distributed in Southwestern and Southern China, Laos, Vietnam.
Uses: The leaves are used for fish poisoning. Fibres can be used. The tree is also used for ritual fires by the Dai. The wood is very light and soft, it is hardly used for timber or fuelwood.
Predominantly temperate family with 700 species worldwide. 5 genera and 49 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Castanopsis hystrix, C. mekongensis, C. fleuryi, Lithocarpus truncatus, L. grandifolius, Quercus acutissima. Fagaceae form the dominant component of the montane evergreen broad-leaved forest.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 30 m height. Lower trunk up to 1 m in diameter.
Bark grey brown to dark brown, fairly smooth with round flakes at the lower part of the trunk. Leaves 5-12 x 2-3 cm, dark green above, red-brown below; not toothed. Fruit single, 1.5 cm in upright spikes, 6 13 mm long. Flowering April June, fruits in September November.
Ecology: Very common tree species in MEBF in altitudes from 1000 2000 m. In dryer conditions often the dominant tree species mixed with Castanopsis fleuryi, Lithocarpus microspermus, Actinodaphne henryi, Phoebe minutiflora, Syzygium spp. Strong coppicing ability and good natural regeneration, shade-tolerant when young. The species becomes increasingly abundant after disturbances (e.g. fire).
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna, widely distributed in Mainland Southeast Asia.
Uses: Mainly for firewood, the Dai use good bole forms for house building timber. Fruits are edible.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 25 m height. Lower trunk up to 80 cm in diameter.
Bark grey and fairly smooth, twigs hairy. Leaves 10-25 x 3-7 cm, with yellow to golden hairs below, not toothed. Fruit single, 1.5 2.0 cm, in 4 5 mm long spikes. Flowering March - April, fruits from August - October.
Ecology: Scattered in all types of forest from TEF, TS-EF, to MEBF in altitudes from 600 1800 m, preferring moist conditions. Natural regeneration under shade.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Laos and Vietnam.
Uses: Valuable timber used for house building and temple poles (Dai). Fruits are edible. Bark contains tannins.
Predominantly tropical family with 540 species worldwide in South Asia, Australia, South America. In Xishuangbanna 2 genera with 18 species. Common species include Elaeocarpus austro-yunnanensis, E. dubius, Sloanea dasycarpa.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 20 m height. Bole up to 60 cm DBH.
Bark dark brown, deeply fissured. Leaves simple, alternate, spirally arranged, toothed. Dark green foliage intermingled with scarlet red old leaves. Dimension 10-21 x 5-9 cm. Stalks bent and swollen at the leafbase. Flowers small, in unbranched sprays, flowering June Juli. Fruit ellipsoid 3.5 4 cm long, 2 cm wide, green-yellowish, fruiting October November.
Ecology: Scattered in TS-EF, common in MEBF in altitudes 800 1400 m. In MEBF mixed with Syzygium cumini, Engelhardtia spicata, Lithocarpus microspermus, Sacrosperma arboreum, Castanopsis spp., more abundant on poorer soils.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna. Endemic to Yunnan, further distributed in Cangyuan, Jingping, Menglian, Simao.
Uses: Timber not very durable, used for boards and interior constructions.
Tiny family with only 8 species worldwide, confined to tropical Africa and Asia. In Xishuangbanna 1 species: Duabanga grandifolia.
Habit: Huge evergreen tree up to 40 m height. Young trees with long horizontal side branches, in older trees becoming steeply ascending with drooping tips.
Bark pale grey, not cracked, irregularly flaking in older trees. Leaves 12-25 x 5-10 cm long, opposite-planar in long flattened sprays, no teeth. Dark green above, grey-green below. Stalks stout, 0.2 0.7 cm. Flower 5 7.5 cm, white, in heavy branched clusters at the end of twigs, flowering March - May. Fruit 2.7 4.5 cm, broadly ovate with large star-shaped calyx at base, splitting into 5 sections, fruiting May July.
Ecology: Very fast growing pioneer species preferring moist areas in all types of forest. Common feature after shifting cultivation, at roadsides and streams. Often growing together with Anthocephalus chinensis, Mallotus spp. Can be planted as a framework species for restoring forest ecosystems.
Distribution: Common in Xishuangbanna up to 1000 m a.s.l. Widely distributed throughout Mainland Southeast Asia.
Uses: Although a fast growing tree, the timber is rather valuable. Used for house building by different ethnic groups.
875 species worldwide, mostly confined to tropical rainforests, centered in Indonesia. 12 genera with 18 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species are Spondias pinnata, Dracontomelon macrocarpum, Drimycarpus racemosus, Semecarpus reticulata, Toxicodendron succedaneum.
Habit: Deciduous tree to 20 m height with open crown and slender branches.
Bark pale grey, smooth with rounded knobs, thick; inner bark pink, juicy. Leaves 30 40 cm, odd-pinnate, alternate, 3 8 pairs of opposite leaflets, 3 11 cm, without hairs, no teeth, smooth. Flower 0.5 cm, white or creamy yellow, bisexual and unisexual flowers on the same tree, branched clusters in upper leaf axils, 15 30 cm, flowering February May. Fruit 3.5 5 cm, green turning into dirty yellow, oval, fleshy with a single large stone containing up to 5 seeds, fruiting August December.
Ecology: Found at altitudes 500 1200 m, mainly in TS-EF. Very common around villages, often mixed with bamboo. Planted in homegardens of several ethnic minorities.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Mainland SE-Asia.
Uses: Multipurpose tree. Fruits are edible and very rich in Vitamin C, used for making sauces and in soups; characteristic flavour of the Dai cuisine. Timber can be used for making boards and fuelwood. Rubber-like sap can be extracted from the bark.
Large and very diverse family with over 10,000 species worldwide, including herbs, climbers shrubs, and trees. Concentrated in the tropics. In Xishuangbanna about 45 genera with over 120 species. Common tree species include Anthocephalus chinensis, Metadina trichotoma, Randia yunnanensis, Wendlandia tinctoria.
Habit: Briefly deciduous tree up to 30 m height. Young trees have a long straight trunk with horizontal side branches clustered at the top. Mature trees develop a large, oval crown with drooping branches.
Bark pale grey brown, smooth when young, becoming flaky to fissured when old. Inner bark pale yellow. Leaves 10-30 x 5-14 cm, opposite planar, oblong with slightly pointed tips. Flower white turning pale orange in dense spherical heads, 4 6 cm in diameter, solitary or in pairs at the end of the twigs, flowering July September. Fruit 3.5 5 cm, green then brown, rather fleshy, individual fruits splitting into 4 sections with many wingless seeds, fruiting November January.
Ecology: Common in TEF and TS-EF, from 500 up to 1200 m. Usually in open areas along streams and roads. Very fast growing pioneer species, often growing together with Duabanga grandiflora. Can be planted as a framework species for restoration of degraded forest areas.
Distribution: Fairly common in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Yunnan and Guangxi, Northern Thailand and Northern Indochina.
Uses: Good timber, used for carpentry and carvings. The species is widely used in plantation forestry. Also used as a shade tree in agro-forestry schemes, e.g. for Coffea and Cocoa.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 25 m height.
Bark yellow-brown, slightly flaking. Leaves 8-24 x 3-8 cm, tapering at both ends, decussately arranged, dark green and glossy above. Flower heads 1.5 2 cm in diameter, pale yellow, grouped in branched clusters at the end of the twigs, flowering February March. Fruit heads 1 cm in diameter with small individual fruit splitting into 4(2) sections; unwinged seeds, fruiting June August.
Ecology: From 600 up to 1200 (2000) m. Mainly found in TEF and TS-EF in the medium layer growing together with Chisocheton siamensis, Knema spp., Garcinia spp., Sapium baccatum. Scattered in MEBF. Prefers moist conditions. Shade-tolerant when young, mature trees are light-demanding.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna found in Jinghong and Mengla. Further distributed in Guangxi, Guangdong, Northern Thailand, Northern Laos and Northwestern Vietnam.
Uses: Valuable timber with yellow colour. Used for house building by the Dai ethnic group.
400 species mainly confined to tropical rainforests of SE-Asia. 3 genera with 9 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species are Knema furfuraceae, K. globularia, Myristica yunnanensis, and Horsfieldia glabra.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 20 m height with narrow pyramidal crown and horizontal branches with drooping tips.
Bark grey-brown to green-brown, smooth and thin. Inner bark with watery pink sap. Leaves 15-50 x 5-14 cm, lanceolate with pointed tip and gradually narrowed towards the heart-shaped base. Mature leaves leathery, dull dark green above, grey-green below. Stalk 0.7 1 cm, stout. Flower yellow-brown, in short clusters with woody main stalks, mostly behind leaves, flowering January February. Fruit 3 4.5 cm, oblong, densily covered with yellow-brown hairs, thick skin. Red seeds, fruiting March June.
Ecology: The species is a distinctive feature of less-disturbed TEF, usually at lower altitudes up to 1000 m. Shade-demanding, often dominating in the lower and medium storeys together with Knema globularia, Garcinia spp., Pittosporopsis kerrii, Baccaurea ramiflora. Scattered also in TS-EF and MEBF in moist areas and Northern expositions.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna found in Jinghong and Mengla. Further distributed in Thailand, Malaysia and parts of Indonesia.
Uses: Fuelwood and timber for small constructions. Seeds contain oil.
Habit: Evergreen tree up to 30 m height with conical crown and horizontal branches.
Bark grey-brown, smooth. Inner bark with red sap. Leaves 24-45 x 8-18 cm, lanceolate, dark green above, grey-green below with tiny reddish hairs. Stalks 2-4 cm. Flower yellow, 3 5 individual blossoms in leaf axils, flowering November January. Fruit 4 5.5 cm with yellow-brown hairs, containing a red seed 3.5 4.2 cm, fruiting March June.
Ecology: The species is confined to TEF up to 700 m. Shade demanding when young, shade-tolerant when mature. Preferring moist areas, growing together with Garcinia spp., Knema spp., Barringtonia macrostachya, Horsfieldia glabra.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna distributed in Mengla and Jinghong, further distributed in Jingping. Endemic to Yunnan.
Uses: Seeds contain oil. Timber can be used for poles and boards. Can be used for afforestation.
Note: Protected in China (class III).
Small but widespread family with 600 species worldwide. 7 genera with 22 species in Xishuangbanna. Common tree species include Schima wallichii, Eurya groffii, Anneslea fragrans.
Habit: Large evergreen tree up to 35 m height and 1 m DBH with a dense crown and straight unbutessed trunk.
Bark dark grey or almost black, becoming very thick and deeply cracked. Inner bark dark red, fibrous and irritating. Leaves variable, 2-8 x 5-18 cm, broadly ovate, mostly without teeth. Above dark glossy green, without hairs, below light green with short white hairs at the veins. Young leaves orange, densily covered with silky hairs. Flower 2 5 cm, white, solitary or clustered in the axils of leaves near the end of the twigs, flowering March April. Fruit 1 2.5 cm woody spherical capsule splitting into 5 sections with many seeds surrounded by a narrow wing, fruiting November February.
Ecology: Characteristic and common element of MEBF growing together with Castanopsis hystrix, Lithocarpus truncatus, Paramichelia baillonii, Phoebe puwenensis. More scatteredly in TEF and TS-EF. The species is a long-lived pioneer with wind-dispersed seeds. Good natural regeneration and strong coppice ability. It readily establishes in disturbed areas (e.g. over-logged areas) and often grows into gregarious stands on abandoned shifting cultivation lands.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna. Further distributed throughout Yunnan, Mainland Southeast Asia, Indonesia.
Uses: Wood durable; main house building timber used for poles, beams and boards by many ethnic groups in Xishuangbanna. Good fuelwood, used by Aini and produced in a coppice system with standards. The species is fire-resistant and can be planted in fire breaks. Can be propagated through seedlings and by direct sowing.
223 species worldwide. 5 genera with 11 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Paramichelia baillonii, Manglietia forrestii, Magnolia henryi.
Habit: Small to medium sized evergreen tree up to 20 m height with a narrow crown.
Bark light to dark green, smooth. Leaves 7-20 x 20-70 cm, narrowly elliptic, dark glossy green above, stalks 3 5 cm. Flower buds narrow, 5 7 cm long, stalks up to 10 cm, flowering in May. Fruit woody, oblong, 10 15 cm, fruiting August September.
Ecology: Shade demanding tree, growing scatteredly in the under-storey of different forest types, mainly found in moist conditions at altitudes from 540 up to 1500 m.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna found in Jinghong and Mengla, further distributed in Southern Yunnan, Myanmar, and Northern Thailand.
Uses: Ornamental purposes.
Note: Protected in China (class III).
285 species worldwide, mostly in South America. 1 genus with 2 species in Xishuangbanna: Barringtonia macrostachya, B. pendula.
Habit: Medium to big sized evergreen tree up to 25 m height. Lower trunk up to 1 m in diameter. The trunk branches early, dense crown.
Bark grey to pale brown, small rounded flakes on mature trees. Inner bark with light red strips. Leaves 5-13 x 15-40 cm, dark glossy green, narrowly lanceolate with a short tip, without teeth; stalks 2 4 cm. Flower 1.5 4 cm, white to pinkish, hanging in clusters up to 110 cm long, flowering April June. Fruit egg-shaped with 4 main ridges, 8 14 cm, red to purple colour, fruiting July September.
Ecology: Characteristic element of the middle-storey of TEF at altitudes from 580 800 m, associated with Baccaurea ramiflora, Microcos chungii, Alniphyllum fortunei, Knema spp., Garcinia spp. The species prefers moist and shady conditions, trees often growing in small groups. Natural regeneration is good under shade.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna found in Mengla and Jinghong, further distributed in Yunnan in Jingping and Honghe.
Uses: Due to branchy growth habit rarely used for house building. Often planted for ornamental purposes.
2850 species mostly in SE-Asia and tropical America. 13 genera with 66 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Actinodaphne henryi, Alseodaphne petiolaris, Cinnamomum bejolghota, Litsea baviensis, Litsea glutinosa, Machilus tenuipila, Machilus salicina, Phoebe minutiflora, Phoebe puwenensis.
Habit: Medium sized evergreen tree up to 25 m height.
Bark yellow-white, smooth. Leaves whorled, 7-13 x 17-30 cm, young leaves are light green produced in distinct flushes. Terminal buds large, protected by many layers of overlapping leafy bracts, leaving distinct scars on the twigs. Flower male and female on different trees, flowering December February. Fruit 3 4 cm, reddish, fruiting August October.
Ecology: Common and forming a characteristic element of MEBF at altitudes 800 1300 m. Associated with Castanopsis hystrix, C. fleuryi, Lithocarpus spp., Engelhardtia spicata, Elaeocarpus austro-yunnanensis, Phoebe minutiflora. The species is shade-tolerant when young, light-demanding when mature. Common in dryer areas of MEBF, also in disturbed areas.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Simao.
Uses: Good wood properties, but small dimensions of timber. Mainly used for smaller constructions and carpentry.
Habit: small evergreen tree up to 5 m with shrubby habit.
Bark dirty white, smooth. Leaves 1.2-3 x 8-18 cm, old leaves dark green and glossy above, light grren below, young leaves orange to pale red, produced in distinct flushes. Flower yellow, 0.6 cm, flowering February March. Fruit small, 0.7 cm, red when ripe, fruiting April June.
Ecology: Very common in the under-storey of dryer MEBF at altitudes 800 1400 m, growing together with Olea rosea, Lasianthus kerrii, Ficus hirta var. imbariensis.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Southern Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, Guangxi, and Northern Vietnam.
Uses: Fuelwood and ornamental purposes.
Habit: small to medium sized tree up to 15 m, briefly deciduous.
Bark pale creamy brown or greyish, finely fissured. Inner bark yellow with aromatic resin. Leaves 3-11 x 6.5-26 cm, alternate, clustered near the end of the twigs, elliptic-oblong with blunt tip. Young leaves orange, densily covered with yellowish hairs, old leaves dark glossy green with hairs on main veins above. Flower heads in unbranched clusters in leaf axils, up to 7 cm, flowering May June. Fruit 0.7 1 cm, black, fruiting September October.
Ecology: Common in all types of forest at altitudes from 700 1900 m. Light-demanding, prefers open forest areas, widespread after disturbances and on abandoned shifting cultivation lands.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributd in Southern Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, and Northern Vietnam.
Uses: Timber with good woo properties, used by the Dai for house building. The resin and seeds can be used to produce oil.
Small family with 250 species worldwide, mainly in tropical America. 1 genus with 2 species native to Xishuangbanna: Bombax ceiba and B. insignis.
Habit: Big deciduous tree up to 35 m. Large crown with thick horizontal branches.
Bark pale grey or cream, with sharp conical thorns when young, becoming smooth and slightly fissured with age. Leaflets 4-5 x 8-15 cm, narrowly elliptic or lanceolate, completely smooth. Individual stalks 1.5 2.5 cm, main stalks 10 19 cm. Flower 8 10 cm, bright orange-red appearing shortly after the old leaves fall from January to February. Fruit 4-6 x 10-17 cm, oblong, straight, fruiting March April.
Ecology: Light-demanding species, grows usually in open areas, often along roadsides at altitudes from 800 1700 m. Tolerant of temporary flooding and often seen along river banks. Scatteredly in TS-EF and Limestone forest, often as big emergents.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Mainland SE-Asia, Indonesia and Australia.
Uses: Soft timber, used for making matches. Hairs inside the seeds are used for stuffing quilts and pillows. Planted in homegardens of several ethnic groups.
One of the largest plant families which forms an important part of the flora on every continent with 18,000 species worldwide. Split into 3 groups: Papilionoidae, Caesalpinioidae, and Mimosoidae. About 30 genera with at least 70 tree species in Xishuangbanna. Common tree species of the Papilionoidae include Erythrina stricta, Dalbergia spp., Ormosia yunnanensis. Belonging to the Caesalpinioidae group are Bauhinia variegata and Cassia siamea. Mimosoidae include Acrocarpus fraxinifolius, Albizia chinensis, Cylindrokelupha yunnanensis, and Pithecellobium clypearia.
Habit: Medium-sized deciduous tree up to 25 m height with steeply ascending branches and open crown.
Bark pale cream, soft and corky, young trees with sharp thorns on thick woody bases, older trees with less thorns, almost smooth. Leaves spirally arranged, pinnately trifoliate18 27 cm long, leaflets thin, 9-11 x 8-14 cm. Twigs robust, prickly. Flower 3.5 4 cm, bright scarlet, in dense clusters, flowering February March. Fruit 5 10 cm, flat, with 1 3 seeds spaced throughout the pod, fruiting March May.
Ecology: Common in open areas around villages and along streams, often colonising degraded areas. Scatteredly in TS-EF, found in both dry and moist areas. Light-demanding, natural regeneration only in open areas.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Mainland SE-Asia, Eastern Java, and the Philippines.
Uses: Wood very soft. The Dai use the trunk to make pots for steaming rice.
Habit: Small deciduous tree up to 15 m with open irregular crown.
Bark tan-brown to blackish, roughly cracked. Leaves 5 12 cm, circular, 2-lobed with a wide and shallow cleft. Young leaves silky hairy, old leaves dark green. Flower 7 10 cm, white or purple (wild trees usually have white flowers), in short unbranched clusters along leafless twigs, covering the whole tree, flowering January March. Fruit 2-2.5 x 20-30 cm, splitting lengthways and curling outwards in 2 ribbons, 10 25 seeds, fruiting in March May.
Ecology: Common in TS-EF with longer dry period, especially in limestone forests and in deciduous forests. Light-demanding tree, abundant in natural regeneration after shifting cultivation, often associated with Ficus semicordata, Trema orientalis, Mayodendron igneum, and Cratoxylon cochinchinensis.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and Indochina.
Uses: Good wood properties but timber with small dimensions, used for carpentry. Flowers are edible and a traditional dish of Dai, Hani and Jinuo ethnic groups. Often planted for ornamental purposes.
Large and divers family, 8100 species found on all continents, but most abundant in the tropics. 27 genera with about 90 species native to Xishuangbanna. Common tree species include Baccaurea ramiflora, Bischofia javanica, Sapium baccatum, Antidesma bunius, Alchornea tiliafolia, Phyllanthus emblica, Macaranga denticulata, Mallotus spp.
Habit: Small evergreen tree up to 12 m height with dense and spreading crown and crooked trunk.
Bark pale cream, smooth or slightly flaking, thin. Leaves spirally clustered at intervals along the twigs, narrowly elliptic with shortly tapering tip, 5-10 x 10-22 cm, dark green and shiny above, completely smooth. Flower small, pale orange or yellow-green, male and female on different trees, females on older branches and on the main trunk in drooping clusters up to 30 cm, flowering February March. Fruit about 2 3 cm, purplish when ripe, ellipsoid, hanging in strings from older branches and the main trunk, fruiting May Juli.
Ecology: Main under-storey tree in TEF, growing together with Pseudouvaria indochinensis, Pittosporopsis kerrii, Ficus langkokensis, shade-demanding, prefers dryer areas in the TEF at altitudes from 500 1000 m.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed on Hainan, in Guangxi, Vietnam, India, and Myanmar.
Uses: Fruits are edible and taste sweet-sour, often cultivated in Dai homegardens. The fruits can be used to cure skin diseases and the bark for curing cough. Wood is used for agricultural tools and for fuelwood.
Habit: Large semi-evergreen tree up to 35 m height with dense crown and stout trunk.
Bark pale brown or reddish brown, smooth. Inner bark thick, brownish-pink with red sap. Leaves trifoliate, spirally alternating. Leaflets 4-8 x 7-15 cm, oval-elliptic; margin with small, rounded teeth, completely smooth. Flower greenish-yellow, numerous in narrow branched clusters at leaf axils, flowering January February. Fruit 0.5 1 cm, hanging in large clusters, brown-black when ripe, fruiting July November.
Ecology: Common along stream valleys in all types of forest at altitudes from 600 1200 m. Often one of the few large trees left standing in degraded forests near villages. Shade-tolerant when young, light-demanding when mature.
Distribution: Common in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed throughout SE-Asia, Taiwan, Southern Japan, Pacific Islands.
Uses: Wood used for construction and furniture. The bark contains tannins and is used by the Dai for toughening ropes and nets. Fruits are edible. Roots can be boiled to make a soup.
110 species concentrated in Northern temperate regions. 2 genera with 3 species in Xishuangbanna: Betula alnoides, Betula luminifera, and Alnus nepalensis.
Habit: Large, briefly deciduous tree up to 40 m height with rather open crown and slightly drooping branches.
Bark red-brown or silvery grey with large oblong lenticels, peeling in very thin horizontal flakes. Inner bark pale brown, aromatic. Leaves spirally arranged, simple, sharply and irregularly toothed, lower surface with tiny resinous dots. Flower tiny, greenish, in drooping catkins 10 15 cm long. Male and female flowers in different catkins but on the same tree, flowering December January. Fruit 0.4 cm with 2 papery wings braoder than the nut, fruiting April June.
Ecology: Found in MEBF, usually at higher elevations (800) 1000 1700 m. The species prefers moist conditions, usually common at Northern Expositions, associated with Sapium baccatum, Litsea baviensis, Alniphyllum fortunei. Long-lived pioneer species, seeds are dispersed by wind. Abundant in natural regeneration on abandoned shifting cultivation lands or small clearcuttings, can grow into gregarious stands.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Northern Thailand, Himalyas, Northern Indochina.
Uses: Valuable timber, used by Dai for house building and carpentry. The bark is used for medicinal purposes such as curing colds, treating Malaria, and stomach aches.
400 species confined to the old world tropics. 3 genera with 9 species in Xishuangbanna.
Habit: Small evergreen tree up to 18 m height with single straight main trunk and horizontal branches.
Bark dark brown, thin. Inner bark with yellow sap. Leaves opposite, up to 10 x 40 cm, rounded or blunt at both ends, thick, dark glossy green. Flower 1.5 2.5 cm, whitish, 4 8 flowers clustered together on short woody stumps, flowering March April. Fruit 4.5 9 cm dark yellow, 3 5 large seeds, fruiting September November.
Ecology: Shade-demanding under-storey tree in TEF at altitudes 600 1000 m, common in less-disturbed forest, often along streams. The species is associated with Aglaia parviridia Knema spp., Baccaurea ramiflora, Mitrephora spp.
Distribution: In whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Jingping, Hekou, Northern Thailand.
Uses: Fruits are edible, seeds contain oil, the sap can be used for medicinal purposes. Also used for fuelwood.
Almost exclusively tropical family with 565 species. 12 genera with at least 29 species in Xishuangbanna. Common tree species include Aglaia parviridia, Amoora dasyclada, Aphanamixis grandifolia, Chisocheton siamensis, Dysoxilum binectariferum, Toona ciliata, Walsura yunnanensis.
Habit: Large, briefly deciduous tree up to 40 m height with long straight trunk with narrow buttresses when mature.
Bark grey-brown, vertically cracked. Inner bark orange-brown, fibrous, sweet smelling. Leaves 35 50 cm, odd- or even-pinnate, leaflets in 6 11 pairs, 3-4 x 6-15 cm, completely smooth when mature. Flower 0.5 0.8, white, in much-branched clusters at leaf axils and along leafless twigs, flowering January February. Fruit 2.5 3 cm, blackish, splitting into 5 sections but not falling apart, fruiting May July.
Ecology: Common in TS-EF, characteristic component of the emergent layer, found at altitudes of 700 1200 m. The species is light demanding, prefers moist sites. Growing together with Nephelium chryseum, Altingia excelsa, Ficus altissima.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Guangdong, Guangxi, Northern Thailand, India and Myanmar.
Uses: Valuable timber with light red color, used for house building by Dai and Hani. Has become rare due to selective exploitation. Roots, leaves, fruits, and bark are ingredients in various herbal medicine mixtures.
Minute family with only 4 species worldwide. 1 species in Xishuangbanna: Tetrameles nudiflora, often placed in a separate family of its own, Tetramelaceae.
Habit: One of the largest forest trees reaching a height of 50 m, briefly deciduous. Open crown, very long straight trunk becoming strongly buttressed when fully grown.
Bark thin, pale silver-grey, smooth and shiny. Inner bark thick and soft, pale yellow-brown. Leaves 10-15 x 12-20 cm, simple, alternate, clustered near the end of twigs, broadly ovate or almost circular, irregularly and bluntly toothed. Flower tiny, greenish, male and females on different trees, in long drooping spikes near the end of leafless twigs, flowering March April. Fruit 0.5 cm, pale brown, many minute seeds, fruiting April May.
Ecology: Characteristic feature of TEF, usually below 700 m, favouring flat alluvial areas close to streams, growing together with Vatica xishuangbannaensis, Terminalia myriocarpa, Chisocheton siamesis, Horsfieldia glabra. Also found in dryer sites on rocks and especially on limestone outcrops.
Distribution: In Xishuangbanna only found in Jinghong and Mengla, further distributed in Jingping, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia.
Uses: Medium timber quality, used for boards.
Note: Protected in China (class II).
Large, almost exclusively tropical family, 1450 species worldwide. 10 genera with 11 species in Xishuangbanna. Common species include Nephelium chryseum, Pometia tomentosa Mischocarpus pentapetalus, and Sapindus rarak.
Habit: Big evergreen tree up to 35 m height, with rather open crown and slightly buttressed trunk.
Bark orange-brown, quite smooth, often flaking in thin scales. Inner bark pale orange with red sap. Leaves 30 70 cm, even-pinnate, 4 10 pairs, 3.5-9 x 6-26 cm. Mature leaves bright green with scattered red-brown hairs. Flower 0.4 cm, orange-green, branched cluster hanging from upper leaf axils, up to 60 cm, flowering March April. Fruit 1.2 3 cm, bright red, finally black with a single large seed, fruiting May June.
Ecology: Found in TEF and TS-EF, restricted to moist areas. Shade-tolerant tree species, but usually found in the canopy layer. Associated with Parashorea chinensis, Cinnamomum bejolghota, Horsfieldia glabra, Chisocheton siamensis.
Distribution: Found in whole Xishuangbanna, further distributed in Simao, Jingping throughout Mainland SE-Asia and parts of Indonesia.
Uses: Good wood properties, used by Dai as a house building timber.
Note: Protected in China (class III).
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