Taxodium mucronatum 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Cupressaceae

Scientific Name: Taxodium mucronatum Ten.
Common Name(s):
English Mexican Cypress, Montezuma Bald Cypress
Spanish Ahue-huete
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: This genus was formerly included under the family Taxodiaceae which is now merged with Cupressaceae (see Farjon 2005). This species is considered by some to be doubtfully distinct from T. distichum (L.) Rich.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2011-06-30
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Perez de la Rosa, J. & Thomas, P.

As this species still has a widespread, though scattered, occurrence and as there is no interest in its wood for exploitation, an assessment of Least Concern is appropriate.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Recorded from Guatemala; Mexico; and USA: S Texas, scattered along the Rio Grande. The extent of occurrence and area of occupancy are both beyond the thresholds for a threatened listing.
Countries occurrence:
Guatemala; Mexico (Chiapas, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México Distrito Federal, México State, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas); United States (Texas)
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):20
Upper elevation limit (metres):2700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is stable despite some localized decline.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species differs ecologically from T. distichum in several ways. Its natural habitat is strictly riparian along upland rivers and lesser streams. It has, however, been introduced and planted in many localities away from these water sources since pre-Hispanic times throughout Mexico and Guatemala, but these grounds all have (or had) water tables reaching up to the relatively deep root system of the trees. Most of the largest trees are found among these planted specimens. Its altitudinal range is (20-)160-2,700 m a.s.l. Germination requires wet soil conditions, either submerged or exposed to air. There is no formation of 'knees' but some trees have a wide, flat, mostly subterranean base suggesting a lignotuber (this needs investigation). As a result, T. mucronatum is a major constituent of gallery woodland or forest bordering rivers, arroyos and canyon bottoms with more or less perennial water at least near the surface. In many streambeds above-ground water occurs only episodically for a short time after heavy rains, carrying large amounts of sediment. Commonly associated tree genera are Platanus, Populus and Salix, at lower altitudes also Ficus and Inga, while many other taxa can occasionally occur, especially in the southern part of its range. In the northern, more arid part of its range T. mucronatum with its semi-evergreen foliage (only dropped under moisture stress) forms green ribbons along 'dry' stream beds in an often semi-arid landscape. This species is frost sensitive, unlike T. distichum, a species which can withstand extremely low temperatures.
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):50

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This tree has undoubtedly been used as a source of timber from time immemorial, but perhaps its best known pre-Columbian use was as a 'rainmaking' tree which also had medicinal properties ascribed to it. The Aztecs planted it in avenues, gardens, and plazas of the Valle de México; some of these features still exist today (Chapultepec, El Contador). In Mexico, this tradition is now continued, with ancient trees being preserved and new ones planted. Martínez (1950) relates some traditional medicinal uses; in some parts of Mexico the foliage is used to decorate church altars during religious ceremonies. Its commercial value as a timber tree is limited due to the softness and weakness of the wood.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threat at present is related to alterations in the water table as a result of dams, pumping or stream diversion. This has affected certain local stands, e.g. in Sonora, where the species reaches its northern limit and where rainfall is sparse and unpredictable.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The conservation of this species, known in Mexico as 'El Ahuehuete' and declared the 'national tree', is concerned with two different elements. The first element constitutes its populations in the wild, in natural or semi-natural habitat. These are the trees IUCN- SC is in the first instance concerned with. Aside from these, there are quite a large number of 'monumental' trees most of which were planted a long time ago; some of these date back to pre-Columbian times as the Aztecs and Mayas already venerated these trees and planted them. As is the case in other countries with ancient conifers but no written record giving sufficient evidence, the natural status of some trees now growing in man-made habitat remains uncertain. They could either be relicts of a destroyed natural vegetation or they could have been planted. Martínez (1950) gave a comprehensive account of these veteran trees, with many photographs. There is an obvious conservation concern for these trees as well. Some of them, and notably the famous 'Tule tree' near Oaxaca, are well protected but nevertheless threatened mainly due to a sinking water table as a result of human interference. The same is true of natural stands of Taxodium mucronatum along watercourses negatively affected by dams upstream, e.g. in southern Sonora (Felger et al. 2001). A recent assessment of the conservation status of this species in Mexico (Alanis Flores and Favela Lara 2002) concluded that it is not threatened with extinction. In Texas, the species is listed as endangered for the State; in Guatemala its status is unknown.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2013. Taxodium mucronatum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T34029A2840943. . Downloaded on 20 July 2018.
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