Temperate forest in China can be divided into central and northern types. In central China the area includes Guangxi, Guizhou and northern parts of the Yunnan region. In topographical terms it comprises the Tata Shan Mountains, the Szechwan Basin, part of the Kweichow Plateau and southern part of the Great Chinese Plain. Along an east-west axis, it extends the entire length of the Yangtze River. In northern China the area extends up to the Mongolian and Manchurian zones, while south of this, it includes part of the Loess Plateau, the Shanxi Plateau, the North China Plain, the Jehol Mountains (north Hopeh mountain area), the the Liaodong Peninsula and the Shandong Peninsula.

Central Chinese Temperate Forest

With their high species diversity and large numbers of canopy tree species these rich, mixed, mesophytic temperate forests almost resemble tropical rainforest. The canopy comprises some 65 genera spread amongst a diversity of unrelated families. They also have a complex vertical structure with up five strata including a crown or canopy layer, a lower tree layer, a tall and small shrub layer, and a herbaceous ground layer. The broad-leaved trees include both deciduous and evergreen species, and each group includes many endemic species. Among the deciduous species are Acer amplum, A. davidii, A. flabellatum, A.  franchettii, A. fulvescens, A. grosseri, A. henryi, A. maximowiczii, A. oliverianum, A. robustum, A. sinense, A. wilsonii, Aesculus wilsonii, Carpinus fargesii, C. oblongifolia, Celtis biondii, C. julianae, C. labilis, Diospyros armata, Evodia hupehensis, Gleditschia macracantha, G. sinensis, Juglans cathayensis, Maackia chinensis, Magnolia cyclindrica, M. sprengeri, M. zenii, Phellodendron chinense, Pterocarya hupehensis, P. paliurus, Salix heterochroma, Tilia henryana, T. oliveri, T. tuan and Zelkova schneideriana.  Evergreen species are less common but still comprise some 15 genera including endemic species such as Eriobotrya japonica (Rosaceae), Illicium henryi (Illiciaceae), Photinia amphidoxa and P. parvifolia (Rosaceae). The floristic composition of the under story of small trees and shrubs is even richer and more varied and, in fact, is unsurpassed by any other deciduous forest. Included here are again many endemic species including Callicarpa bodinieri (Lamiaceae), Cercis chinensis, C. racemosa, (Fabaceae), Clethra monostachya (Clethraceae), Fortunearia sinensis (Hamamelidaceae), Hydrangea sargentiana, H. strigosa (Hydrangeaceae), Ilex cornuta I. szechwanensis (Aquifoliaceae), Jasminum giraldii (Oleaceae), Meliosma beaniana, M. flexuosa, M. veitchiorum (Sabiaceae), Rhamnella franguloides (Rhamnaceae), Stachyurus szechuanensis (Stachyuraceae), Stewartia sinensis (Theaceae), Styrax dasyantha and S. veitchiorum (Styracaceae).  Also unlike most temperate forests there are many woody climbers, and again including many endemic species such as Actinidia melanandra (Actinidiaceae), Clematis apiifolia (Ranunculaceae), Holboellia fargesii (Lardizabalaceae), Kadsura longipedunculata (Schisandraceae), Parthenocissus henryana, P. laetovirens (family), Schisandra sphenanthera (Schisandraceae), Sinofranchetia chinensis (Lardizabalaceae) and Vitis wilsonae (Vitaceae). The ground cover includes many shade tolerant flowering plants and ferns many of which are confined to these shady woodlands. These comprise at least 22 genera including endemic species of Arisaema, Corydalis, Lilium and Smilax.

Also integral to these forests is a rich, indigenous conifer assemblage including at least 15 genera with endemic species such as Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgoaceae), Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood) (Cupressaceae), Nothotaxus chienii (Taxaceae), Pseudolarix amabilis (Pinaceae), Pseudotsuga gavsenii, P. forestii, P. sinensis (Pinaceae) and Torreya grandis (Cephalotaxaceae).  Ginkgo biloba occurs in the foothills of western Tienmu-Shan often in association with Pseudolarix amabilis, while Metasequoia glyptostroboides is restricted to the forests at the Szechuan-Hopeh border often in association with the conifer Taiwania cryptomeroides, which was once thought to be endemic to Taiwan. Both Ginkgo and Metasequoia were only known from the fossil record prior to being discovered in China, and in fact, the Ginkgo is one of the oldest known gymnosperms dating back to the early Mesozoic.  The Metasequoia was first described from the lower Pliocene, and both this species and Taiwania are members of the Taxodiaceae and closely related to the giant redwoods of North America. In the mild climate of the early to mid Tertiary Period, the fossil record tells us that Metasequoia, like the North American red woods, formed extensive northern forests, and in fact, its unusual deciduous habitat for a conifer is thought to be an adaptation to the Arctic night. Other endemic species associated with Metasequoia, and possible relics of the Tertiary forests, include Abelia uniflora (Caprifoliaceae), Celastrus hypoleuca (Celastraceae), Corylopsis platypetala (Hamamelidaceae), Emmenopterys henryi (Rubiaceae), Eucommia ulmoides (Eucommiaceae), Gymnocladus chinensis (Fabaceae), Liriodendron chinense (Magnoliaceae), Nyssa sinensis (Cornaceae), Poliothyris sinensis (Flacourtiaceae), Polygala wattersii (Polygalaceae), Rhamnus utilis (Rhamnaceae), Sassafras tzumu (Lauraceae), Tapiscia sinensis (Tapisciaceae), Tetracentron sinense (Trochodendraceae), Trollius yunnanensis (Ranunculaceae), and Zelkova schneideriana (Ulmaceae).

The dawn redwood forests occur in Shuisha-Pa (Metasequoia Valley) in the remote areas of the upper Yangtze. Compared with the lower Yangtze, the forests here also support many other endemic species. For example in the forests of Szechan the endemic or near endemic genera Bretschneiddera (B. sinensis), Davidia (D. involucrata), and Rhoitpelea (R. chiliantha) occur, while other endemic or near endemic taxa typically found in the upper Yangtze forests include Dipteronia sinensis (Sapindaceae), Euptelea pleiosperma (Eupteleaceae), Fagus engleriana (Fagaceae), Fokienia hidginsii (Cupressaceae), Sinowilsonia henryi (Hamamelidaceae) and Staphylea holocarpa (Staphyleaceae). 

Northern Chinese Deciduous Oak Forest

Various species of oak including Quercus aliena, Q. dentata, Q. liaotungensis, Q. variabilis together with Fraxinus chinensis often dominate these forests, but some of these show distinct altitudinal preferences. Among the other common trees are the endemic Ostrya liana (Betulaceae)and Ulmus davidiana (Ulmaceae), while less common endemic trees include Pteroceltis tatarinowii (Cannabaceae) and Pyrus betulaefolia (Rosaceae). The shrub layer is often well developed and includes species such as Andrachne chinensis, Cotoneaster multiflora and the endemic Abelia biflora (Caprifoliaceae), Myripnois dioica (Asteraceae), Smilax pekinensis (Smilacaceae), Spiraea dasyantha (Rosaceae) and Syringa pubescens (Oleaceae). Shrubs of the two endemic genera Myripnois and Ostryopsis, on the other hand, usually occur in the ecotonal regions between woodland and steppe, where they often form extensive patches sometimes to the exclusion of other species. The third endemic genus (Oresitrophe), is represented by the chasmophytic species O. rupifraga, forms colonies on rocky cliffs and ledges in shaded ravines. 

Northern Chinese Pinus tabulaeformis Forest

Not confined to a distinct altitudinal range these forests occur throughout the deciduous hardwood zone, but usually on dryer sites or on more exposed solar slopes. On the most rocky, arid slopes other conifers include Thuja orientalis and occasional Juniperus rigida.

Northern Chinese Mixed Northern Hardwood

These forests form a narrow belt between the lowland oak forest and upland birch forests. In the Taihong Mountains they occur at altitudes of between 1000-1400 m. The main tree species include Acer truncatum, Fraxinus chinensis, Juglans mandshurica and Tilia mongolica. In the upper altitudinal zones species such as Acer davidii, Betula chinensis, Quercus aliena, Q. liaotungensis, Sorbus discolor and the endemic Ostrya liana (Betulaceae) can be found.

Northern Chinese Upland Birch Forest

Virtually all of the high mountains of this area have stands of birch forest. These can be clearly distinguished by their white boles and pale green crowns that turn bright yellow in autumn. In the Hopei-Chahar region pure stands of Betula fruticosa occur at altitudes of between 1000-2200 m, but at lower altitudes Quercus liaotungensis appears together with other birches such as Betula chinensis. In places Betula japonica var. mandshurica and B. albo-sinensis commonly occur together with Picea asperata, Populus tremula var. davidiana, Prunus padus, Salix wallichiana and Sorbus pohuashanensis. The ground cover of these forests is relatively sparse compared with the lower oak forests and is largely composed of herbaceous species commonly found in the montane conifer forests and alpine regions. They include Aconitum lycoctonum, Aquilegia oxysepala, Cardamine macrophylla, Cortusa matthioli var. pekinensis, Cypripedium macranthum, Drada lanceolata, Pyrola rotundifolia, Saussurea sobarocephala, Solidago virga-aurea, Trollius chinensis, Valeriana dubia and Viola biflora.


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