Ten Extremely Rare Seeds on the Brink of Extinction
The Millennium Seed Bank has set out to collect 25 percent of the world's plant species by 2020—before it is too late
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, May 14, 2012
(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew)
Name: Mulanje Cedar (Widdringtonia whytei)
Status: At the brink of extinction, this species of cypress is confined to Mount Mulanje, a 9,852-foot-tall massif in southern Malawi, where only a small stand of the trees survives.
Threats: Mulanje Cedars are known for their sweet- smelling and, more important , termite-resistant timber, which has been used in the construction of door and window frames, as well as local arts and crafts. In 2007, it became illegal to fell the cedars, which typically grow to a height of about 150 feet at altitudes upwards of 6,500 feet. Yet a black market for the wood persists.
Impact: The decline of the species—Malawi’s national tree—is a tough financial blow to Malawi, one of the world’s least-developed countries.
Learn more about Mulanje Cedars at the Encyclopedia of Life.