a living fossil in my garden
In my garden there is a living fossil, a tree that was around during the time of the dinosaurs. It is a Wollemi pine, or Wollemia nobilis. It is endangered in the wild but has been domesticated and is now available from nurseries.
A couple of years ago there was a ring at the door and a delivery man presented me with this small tree. I thought it must be a mistake since I didn’t order it. But it was a present from the electricity company to thank me for paying extra for green electricity.
I didn’t know where to plant it so I put it in a pot. It grew and survived a couple of years but it needed more space. When I rejected the shapeless buddleia in a corner of the front garden a congenial spot became available. And as you can see it has settled into its new home and looks happy and healthy.
Here’s some botanical information courtesy of Wikipedia.
Despite its name Wollemi pine is not a pine. It’s a conifer, a member of the ancient araucaria family. Other members of the aucaria family include the Norfolk Island pine and the massive kauri tree of New Zealand. Aucarias were common on the ancient continent of Gondwanaland more than 130 million years ago. They were found even earlier on the continent of Pangaea that covered most of the earth’s landmass over 200 million years ago.
The Wollemi pine has double-helical rows of needles and bubbly dark-brown bark. Most araucarias are single-trunked but wollemia sends up a dense thicket of offshoots -- which may help it survive drought and bushfires.
Members of this family are dioecious meaning they can’t self fertilize and are either male or female. I don’t know whether my plant is male or female and it needs an expert to tell which is which. Let’s hope there happens to be another Wollemi pine of the opposite sex nearby … but if not, just growing a single specimen will still help to conserve this extraordinary and attractive tree.