Cathaya is a genus in the pine family, Pinaceae, with one known living species, Cathaya argyrophylla.[2] Cathaya is a member of the subfamily Laricoideae, most closely related to Pseudotsuga and Larix. A second species, C. nanchuanensis, is now treated as a synonym,[3] as it does not differ from C. argyrophylla in any characters.

Temporal range: 30.0–0 Ma
Cathaya argyrophylla - Arnold Arboretum - DSC06796.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnosperms
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Subfamily: Laricoideae
Genus: Cathaya
Chun & Kuang
C. argyrophylla
Binomial name
Cathaya argyrophylla
Chun & Kuang

Cathaya is confined to a limited area in southern China, in the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan and southeast Sichuan. It is found on steep, narrow mountain slopes at 950–1800 m altitude, on limestone soils. A larger population has been reduced by over-cutting before its scientific discovery and protection in 1950.

The leaves are needle-like, 2.5–5 cm long, have ciliate (hairy) margins when young, and grow around the stems in a spiral pattern. The cones are 3–5 cm long, with about 15–20 scales, each scale bearing two winged seeds.

One or two botanists, unhappy with the idea of a new genus in such a familiar family, tried to shoehorn it into other existing genera, as Pseudotsuga argyrophylla and Tsuga argyrophylla.[4] It is however very distinct from both of these genera, and these combinations are not now used.

The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia had a small living specimen. The tree died in 2017.

Fossil recordEdit

Cathaya sp. fossils are described from the early Pleistocene of southern Portugal.[5] They are abundant in European brown coal deposits dating from between 10–30 million years ago.


  1. ^ Yang, Y.; Liao, W. (2013). "Cathaya argyrophylla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T32316A2814173. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T32316A2814173.en. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Cathaya". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  3. ^ "Cathaya nanchuanensis". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  4. ^ "Cathaya argyrophylla". Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  5. ^ Forest Context and Policies in Portugal: Present and Future Challenges by Fernando Reboredo – Springer, 28. aug. 2014 – ISBN 978-3-319-08455-8

External linksEdit