Saving a Rare Tree Worlds Away

Science

Saving a Rare Tree Worlds Away

By RACHEL NUWER

 rare tree

 A small stand of Betula chichibuensis trees in the Chichibu Mountains in Japan, the last place where they survive in the wild. Credit Yuji Igarashi

A graceful birch native to Japan is one of the rarest trees in the world. Two decades ago, botanists counted just 21 remaining in the wild, all confined to a single stand in the remote, rugged forest of the Chichibu Mountains — likely far too few for the species, Betula chichibuensis, to sustain itself.

Arboretums scrambled to cultivate the tree, with some success. But now the species may have gained a second chance at survival: Botanists in Britain have collected and germinated seeds from these wild birches for the first time in nearly 30 years. Read more.