Xinjiang Government approved the establishment of the Xinjiang Tarim Huyang Nature Reserve on October 8 1983. This was later upgraded to a national level nature reserve in February 2006. The protected area lies in Xinjiang Bayinguolin Mongol Autonomous State’s Yuli and Luntai Counties. The coordinates are E84°15’~ 85°30′ ,N40°55’~ 41°15′. Its area is 39.5 million hectares. The Huyang (Poplar diversifolious) forest and its associated ecosystem is the main target of this reserve.
The location of the protected areas is part of the 53 million hectares Tarim Basin, which is the world’s largest inland basin. The Reserve is bisected by the Tarim River, the world’s longest inland river with a length of 2,179 km it is north of the 34 million hectares Taldimakan Desert (the world’s second largest desert).
This Reserve accounts for 24% of the total Huyang forest in China. It is the world’s largest original Huyang forest. It has a biodiversity ecosystem that has been preserved. The unique Huyang tree which grows in the Tarim basin had its origin in the ancient 36 states of western China, which were called “Hu”. Huyang poplar also can be called Hu Tong or Wu tong.
There are more than 60 species of trees in the Huyang forests. The main associated plant vegetation is red willow and narrow-leaved oleaster. Huyang and other plants can constitute 4 main forest types: young growth Huyang forest in the River refuge, reed-red willow-Huyang forest, red willow-Huyang forest, and grass-wild hemp-Lingdangci (desert plant)-Huyang forest.
Huyang, is a species of Tertiary Period tree, which are today called living fossils. It can live and not fall for 1 000 years, and after it dies and falls, not rot for 1 000 years. Huyang is the only tall tree that lives in the desert. Huyangs rely on seeds, lateral roots, and regenerated broken branches to repopulate the species.
The Huyang tree is famous for its endurance of drought conditions, salt tolerance, resistance to sand storms, extreme cold and survives floodings. It can resist high temperatures of 41.5 degrees, cold of-39.8 degrees, and can live in harsh natural environments with rainfall between 100-289 mm and evaporation rates of 1 500-3 700 mm.
The height of an adult Huyang tree is 10 – 20 meters, with the highest reaching 28 meters. The tree-crown can reach 20 meters. Since the growth rings of its branches gradually thicken, some branches can grow up to half meter in circumference. Its bark is cracked and has a gray color. The appearance is obvious during the four seasons of the year. The bud whip is green in spring and the leaves are green in summer, but turn golden in autumn, and in winter, become dark yellow. The leaves of the Huyang are diversiform, meaning they have 2 or 3 shapes. Huyang also secrete a kind of resin, named “Huyang Tears”, which has multiple uses after drying.