Tourists really love China's most famous tree, and that could be a problem. The "Greeting Pine" stands on a mountain overlooking the valleys of Huangshan and is believed to be a millennium old. It has its own guardian: He's the 19th one and is tasked with checking on the tree every two hours around the clock. Hu Xiaochun tells NBC News that in addition to protecting the distinctive evergreen from squirrels and monkeys, he has to protect it from tourists, most of whom stop in front of it for a photo. "Human sweat damages the bark, and we are trying to ensure that it keeps growing naturally," he says.
"The Chinese now have disposable income to allow them to travel for pleasure, and these sites are becoming inundated with commercial enterprises and the tourists who use them. As a result some sites are being 'loved to death,'" says one expert. More than 3.3 million people visited Huangshan in 2016, with most of them stopping at the Greeting Pine, so named because of two large branches that appear to be welcoming guests with open arms, the Sixth Tone reports. NBC News describes tourists as pushing against the fence surrounding the tree in an attempt to get closer. The concern over the tree's health comes as China increasingly focuses on environmental issues, a big change from its previous "growth-at-all-costs" approach to economics and the environment. (Read more China stories.)