The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is one of my favorite spots in the city. Recently I paid another visit and checked out the Wollemi pine. This specimen was planted as one of the first seedlings from the trees found growing in the wild.
The Wollemi pine was formally identified in 1994. It is an example of the botanical diversity and wonder of Australian trees. Discovered when bushwalker David Noble clambered down a rocky cliff into a remote canyon in the Wollemi wilderness – hence the name – about 100 kilometres inland from Sydney. He encountered a cluster of strange-looking trees that he had never seen before.
He had encountered what has since been described as a living fossil – a tree that once flourished throughout the Southern Hemisphere and was believed to have been extinct for millions of years. The director of the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Dr Carrick Chamber, drew an analogy with a living dinosaur, saying that the significance of the discovery was “the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur alive on earth.”
The Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back about 120 million years to the time of the dinosaurs. With less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi Pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival. You can assist in its conservation effort by growing your own Wollemi Pine seedling – they are now available at many nurseries – and becoming part of one of the most dramatic comebacks in natural history.