Wollemi’s botanical fossil

The equivalent of finding a living dinosaur is finding a tree thought to be extinct for millions of years, a tree found flourishing right here in Australia.

The Wollemi Pine was rediscovered in the early 1990s in Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, and it wasn’t only one tree, but a mini-forest of 40 plants in a narrow ravine concealed by sheer cliff walls and overgrown forest vegetation.

The find was reported to botanists who confirmed the identification of the species with great excitement.

Then the location was locked down and kept secret.

After delicate investigation and collection of seeds, new plants were grown relatively easily.

Moves were also made to clone the existing forest of 40 trees with another 40 trees to preserve the original forest which is only accessible by helicopter and rappelling down to the secret ravine.

The newly-cloned plants have grown well in the ravine while the original forest has been treated for some minor pests and disease issues which are relatively common and non-life threatening. 

ANCIENT LIFE: Jill Owen, Nicole Browne and Michael Regan in the grounds at Wodonga TAFE study one of the Wollemi Pines growing on the campus. These are available as seedlings or seeds for planting.

ANCIENT LIFE: Jill Owen, Nicole Browne and Michael Regan in the grounds at Wodonga TAFE study one of the Wollemi Pines growing on the campus. These are available as seedlings or seeds for planting.

After a number of years of preservation and propagation with surety of the species and continued growth, the announcement of the find was made to the world nearly 10 years after the initial discovery.

Shortly after, the Wollemi trees were distributed to major botanic gardens and parks in Australia and around the world - much to the thrill of Sir David Attenborough after the Royal London Botanical Garden received their specimen.

Since then the Wollemi Pine has been available in nurseries locally.

It can also be grown from the seeds it drops, by planting them in early spring in pots, preferably located in partial sun/shade conditions until it sprouts. 

This may take a couple of seasons.

Then, once grown beyond its pot, it can be transferred to an appropriate position.

Growing up to 35 metres, the Wollemi Pine is best suited to a large garden as a specimen or in a group, and would also make an excellent avenue tree.

Once established it could survive in temperatures ranging up to 35 degrees and down to -5 degrees, which are similar to the conditions of the ravine.

So, if you’re looking for a new tree that boasts a historical and archaeological story of rediscovery, a tree which will bring striking features to your garden, and one which helps regenerate the environment, then the Australian Wollemi Pine is for you. 

Diary

Kitchen Gardening course - Wodonga TAFE three, half-days October 9, 16 and 23; 9.30-12.30. $250. Call 1300 MY TAFE (1300 698 233).

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