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Friday, April 25, 2008


The Wollemi pine tree is also know as “Dinosaur tree”. The Wollemi Pine can grow up to 130ft (39.6m) high in the wild, with a trunk diameter of more than 3ft (91cm).

The Family
The Wollemi pine tree is the only species in the third living genus (Wollemia) of the conifer family Araucariaceae. It has features in common with the other living genera Agathis and Araucaria as well as with Cretaceous and early Tertiary fossil groups such as Araucarioides.

Habitat and Growing Conditions
The Wollemi pine tree grows to a height of 130 feet (40 meters) in its natural habitat with a trunk diameter of over three feet (one meter). However, in cultivation they are expected to reach a maximum height of 65 feet (20 meters). The Pines have grown in temperatures from 23-113°F (-5 to 45°C) and trials in the US and Japan have indicated that it will survive temperatures as cold as 10.4°F (-12°C). They are fast growing, respond well to light and favor acid soils. The Wollemi™ pine trees produced from seeds and cuttings from the wild population are growing rapidly and averaging about one and a half feet (half a meter) in height a year if they have sufficient fertilization.

Unique Characteristics
The Wollemi pine tree's habit of spontaneously sprouting multiple trunks from its base (known as self-coppicing) has proved a vital defense in withstanding damage through fire and other natural disasters. Another unusual characteristic of the Wollemi pine tree, common to the Araucaria genus, is its habit of shedding whole branches rather than individual leaves. The distinct bark, which resembles bubbling chocolate, is also unique to the Wollemi pine tree.

Research has not yet revealed genetic variation within or between the Wollemi™ pine tree populations. In fact, there is very low genetic variation within the whole family of Araucariaceae. Scientists believe that this may prove that it is possible to have exceptionally low variability and yet survive the ravages of bush fires, the Ice Age, dinosaurs, and the movement of continents.

Like its closest living relatives, the Wollemi pine tree is bisexual with both female and male reproductive cones on the same tree. The male and female cones are found at the very tips of the branches, with the majority of the female cones at the top of the trees.

Special Properties
A fungus found on the leaves of some of the Wollemi pine trees in the wild has been found to produce small quantities of a chemical known as Taxol—an anti-cancer agent. Taxol is not a byproduct of the Wollemi pine tree. Previously, Taxol has been found on trees in the Taxus genus (e.g. Yew Trees). The amount of Taxol found on the Wollemi™ pine trees is too small to be used for medicinal purposes.

The aim of releasing the Wollemi pine tree is to safeguard its long-term survival by removing the threat of visits to the wild population. As seeds from the wild population are difficult and dangerous to collect, and collection poses the threat of damage to the trees, propagation is being carried out vegetatively from young plants grown from the original seeds and cuttings from the Wollemi pine trees in the wild. Research is also being conducted to test the viability of utilizing micro propagation methods for commercial production.

Dinosaur trees' heavily guarded

Wollemi Pine Thousands of rare baby "dinosaur" trees have been placed under 24-hour security to protect them before they go on sale. About 15,000 Wollemi Pine - a tree once thought to have become extinct millions of years ago - are thriving in a greenhouse in Cornwall.

Horticultural expert Tony Russell, who is helping to arrange the Jurassic exhibit, said the discovery of the Wollemi Pine - a fern-like evergreen tree - was "like finding a living dinosaur".

To save the trees from extinction Wollemi Pine International is spearheading a project to raise saplings from the trees in the wild and make them commercially available across the world. The money raised will help to protect the secret location from outsiders, as well as fund a research programme to establish how the tree has managed to survive 17 Ice Ages.


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