With more than 31,000 native plant species and 6,266 species of vertebrates, China is home to a large population of the world’s plants and animals. In fact, more than 100 species of animals can only be found in China. While 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 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 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 the golden yellow leaves that appear during the autumn.
The dove tree, 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 natives, 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 particular bear species is one of the most endangered in the world.
Three species of golden monkey are native to 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.
The Chinese alligator is native to the freshwater streams and rivers of China around the lower Yangtze River. A smaller member of the crocodilian species, 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.
The red-crowned crane is a tall bird with long legs and a long neck. Standing approximately 5 feet tall, the red-crowned crane is a symbol of longevity to the people of East Asia. Though ancient folklore reputes the birds to live to 1,000 years old, the crane actually only lives about 70 years, which is still quite impressive for a bird species.