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Range DescriptionIn 1892, the French missionary P.G. Farges was the first westerner to conduct a botanical survey in Chengkou county, Chongqing Municipality (formerly eastern Sichuan Province), in central China. Among the many new species discovered by Farges, was Thuja sutchuenensis. After his first collection, Farges returned a number of times to the area up until 1900 and collected additional specimens of this species. Later in the twentieth century, a number of botanical collecting trips were made to Chengkou by Chinese botanists. Some trips were specifically made to find T. sutchuenensis. However, nothing was found and it therefore remained known only from specimens collected by Farges and lodged in various European herbaria, although it was said to be in cultivation in China. Nothing was known about the habitat in which the species had been found, and it was not even certain that the species had been collected in the wild, as only the town of Chengkou was mentioned as its locality. As a result, the species was widely regarded to be Extinct in the Wild, and was considered to be the only conifer to have disappeared from nature in historic times (Farjon and Page 1999).
In October 1999, an expedition in search of rare and endangered plants of Chongqing Municipality organized by a local forest bureau carried out a thorough investigation of Chenkou county. In the Dabashan Mountains they discovered a wild population of Thuja sutchuenensis.