Photos credit: Jaime Plaza, Botanic Gardens Trust
It is no reason to stop living a green lifestyle, but have you noticed that extinct species seem to be popping up everywhere? Recently, the existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought extinct for over 60 years, was confirmed deep in the woods of Arkansas. Your chances of seeing this shy bird are low, but another rediscovered species is set to become the must-have apartment plant of the decade. The Wollemi Pine was "rediscovered" by David Noble, a NSW National Park and Wildlife Officer, in 1994 in Sydney's Blue Mountains. Biologists have described this as akin to running across a live dinosaur during a walk in the bush. Previously, it was known only from the fossil records, dating back at least 90 million years. The Wollemi pine's most unique feature is the bubbly bark, which looks almost blistered. The dark green conifer is the ultimate sustainable Christmas tree and grows well indoors or on shaded balconies. Now, after years of micro-propagation, tissue cultivation and bring-it-back-from-the-brink-of-extinction biological efforts, this plant will be coming to a store near you soon. And here is the best part: every purchase supports survival of the dinosaur tree in the wild, where only about 100 mature adults are known to remain in two stands.
The trees are on display at the US Botanical Garden in Washington D.C. until 28 May. The first chance for the general public to see the trees in the UK is at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on 24-28 May. The trees are also featured at the World Expo in Aichi Japan. For a tree-tour coming to a location near you, check out the newsletter on the Wollemi Pine website.
And if you get serious about buying, you might want to make a bid for the 'Collectors Edition' trees which will become available in October 2005. To quote a representative of the Kew Gardens:
These will be 3 year old first generation trees that can be directly traced back to those in the wild and will therefore be very valuable.Check out the Kew Gardens website or email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your name and address to the list to be notified about events in the UK.
The Gardens did not answer my query about price, so you know the old adage: "If you have to ask..." I don't see a reference for sales in the Smithsonian info, although they are involved in researching the trees hardiness in the Northern climes (with positive results). But if you are willing to settle for an ordinary non-collector's dinosaur tree, you can wait until April of 2006 when more smaller trees will be put on the market direct from the Wollemi people down under. You can register your interest at the Wollemi Pine site (link above). [by © C. Lepisto]