China is home to many plants and animals not found elsewhere in the world. With over 31,000 native plant species, 6,266 species of vertebrates and more than 100 species of animals only found in China, some of the native plants and animals of China are well-known, primarily due to their status on the endangered species list. Others are not as familiar to the western world.
The Metasequoia glyptostroboides, known commonly as the Dawn Redwood, is a rare tree native to China that was once thought to be extinct. In 1948, a grove of metasequoia was discovered in a secluded region of China. There are approximately only 5,000 trees left in the wild.
The golden larch, Pseudolarix kaempferi, is a deciduous tree native to the Yangtze River valley in southern China. According to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, the golden larch is one of five rare species of garden trees throughout the world. Golden larch trees are favored for their golden yellow leaves that appear during the autumn.
The dove tree, Davidia involucrata, also called the ghost tree or pocket handkerchief tree, is a medium-sized tree, growing to heights of about 40 feet. The tree is named for its flowers, which bloom in the spring. The flowers of the dove tree produce a small ball-shaped cluster, surrounded by large white petals that resemble dove wings.
One of China’s most well-known native bears, the giant panda, comes from the southwestern regions of the country. The giant panda's diet consists of bamboo, a plant also native to these regions. With less than 2,500 adult pandas left in the wild, this bear species is one of the most endangered in the world. China considers its giant panda population a national treasure.
Three species of golden snub-nosed monkeys live in the forests and mountains in the Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces of China. Golden monkeys are becoming extremely rare, as their living areas are being destroyed by urban development. They typically dwell at elevations of between 1,500 and 3,400 feet above sea level in the temperate forest climates of central and Southwest China mountains.
Native to the freshwater streams and rivers of China around the lower Yangtze River, the Chinese alligator only reaches about 6 feet in length. Chinese alligators are critically endangered and are virtually extinct in the wild.
The white-flag dolphin, or Chinese river dolphin, is one of the few freshwater dolphins on the planet. Native to the Yangtze River, the white-flag dolphin is light blue to gray with a white belly and light-colored dorsal fin. It is an average-size dolphin, approximately 8 feet long. Fishing, pollution and development have severely depleted the numbers of the Chinese river dolphin, making the species critically endangered.
A bird with long legs and a long neck, the red-crowned crane stands approximately 5 feet tall, and represents a symbol of longevity to the people of East Asia. Though ancient folklore reputes the birds live to about 1,000 years old, the crane only lives about 70 years, which is still quite impressive for a bird species.