Athrotaxis cupressoides D.Don


Endemic to Tasmania where the main threats are fire, grazing of regeneration and dieback caused by Phytophthora

Associated Names:

pencil pine


Confined to Tasmania, Australia mainly on the Central Plateau, the Great Western Tier and westward mountains, more scattered in the south of the island. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy, based on herbarium specimens data, is estimated to be 12,818km² and 650km² respectively. Estimates of the area of occupancy for the main vegetation types that A. cupressoides occurs in, are considerably less: 24,279ha (Balmer et al., 2004).

Habitat and Ecology

A relatively small slow growing, longlived tree of the subalpine zone where it occasionally forms dense stands. Often found on fire protected sites such as bogs, around lake shores or alongside streams. Usually associated with conifers such as Diselma archeri and Pherosphaera hookeriana and angiosperms such as Eucalyptus coccifera, Orites acicularis, Richea scoparia, R. pandanifolia and Nothofagus gunnii.

Conservation Status

Global status

Vulnerable B1ab(ii,iii,v)+2ab(ii,iii,v)

Global rationale

Calculations of extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) for Athrotaxis cupressoides are based on herbarium specimen distribution data. While EOO appears roughly in accordance with a map published by Brown & Hill in Farjon & Page (1999), the AOO could be too small if a grid size of 2-4km were used. This is because there are many stands known that were not sampled for the herbaria consulted. Using a 5km grid puts the species in VU under the observation of slowed but still ongoing decline.

Global threats

This species is extremely fire sensitive and much of the total population was fire-killed mainly in widespread fires on the Central Plateau in 1960/61. Regeneration of the species is limited by grazing, mainly by introduced sheep and rabbits, of which the latter remain a problem. Dieback in which a species of the oomycete genus Phytophthora may be implicated occurs at some high altitude sites.

Conservation Actions

Over 90% of the remaining areas of the species are now within IUCN Category I-IV reserves, especially within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.