One fateful day in 1994, a park ranger by the name of David Noble was hiking through a remote canyon in the Blue Mountains, Australia when he came across something that has been likened to finding a living dinosaur today.
There, in a deep gully, he found a group of trees unlike any he had ever seen before. He collected samples and authorities were able to confirm that he had discovered a living fossil – a plant that had been thought to be extinct for millions of years. The Wollemi Pine had been found.
The Wollemi Pine is a coniferous tree that belongs to the family Araucariaceae, which includes other well-known species such as the monkey puzzle tree and the Norfolk Island pine. The Wollemi pine is thought to have originated in the supercontinent of Gondwana, which existed until around 150 million years ago. It is believed to have survived the break-up of Gondwana by evolving into three different lineages – two of which are now extinct. The last remaining lineage is the one that David Noble discovered in 1994.
The Wollemi pine is an amazing discovery for several reasons. First of all, it is a living fossil – meaning that it has remained unchanged for millions of years. Secondly, it is the only known member of its genus (Wollemia) to still be alive today. And finally, it is extremely rare – there are thought to be fewer than 100 individuals remaining in the wild.
Since its discovery, only a handful of people have been lucky enough to see the Wollemi pine in person. The location where Noble found it is kept secret in order to protect the trees from being harmed by too much human activity. However, propagation efforts have been successful, and there are now hundreds of thousands of Wollemi pines growing in nurseries and gardens all over the world.
The Wollemi pine is one of the most fascinating plants on Earth. It is a living fossil that has remained unchanged for millions of years, and it is the only known member of its genus and family to still be alive today. If you are ever lucky enough to see one in person, consider yourself one of the privileged few – because this amazing tree is truly like no other.
To find more information and support the conservation of the Wollemi Pine, head to the official website here.