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 Mixed (Metasequoia) Forest

With their high species diversity and large numbers of canopy tree species these rich temperate forests resemble tropical rain forest. 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.

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). 


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