Douglas Justice wrote today’s entry. I took the photos of the tree, recently planted at the garden’s front entrance. The first image shows a side branch photographed to show the new growth. The second shows a small male cone.
Wollemia, previously known from fossils as old as 90 million years and thought to be extinct for at least 2 million years, was discovered alive in a rainforest grove in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, in 1994, by David Noble, a field officer of the Wollemi National Park. The discovery caused tremendous excitement and fanfare in the scientific community. While we can never be entirely certain of the identification of fossil species, pollen and leaf studies show that Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi pine) and the fossil Wollemia are close relatives, if not the very same species. Read more about this tree here.
Fewer than 100 mature individuals of Wollemia nobilis exist in the wild—an additional two small groves have been identified since the original discovery—making this one of the rarest and most endangered trees in the world, but conservation work, funded primarily through sales of propagated trees, has helped to ensure the species’ survival.
The tree pictured, “Little Billy,” is a first descendant propagation of the “Bill Tree,” the tallest of the Wollemis in the original grove. The species has been through plenty: from dinosaur browsing to multiple ice ages and extended periods of drought. We’re confident that with limited winter protection, it should be able to survive here.