Australia's Jurassic tree is returned to the world
Friday 14 October 2005
To ensure its survival, Australian conservationists have propagated large numbers and plan to auction the next generation at Sotheby's later this month, with species being touted as the latest must-have garden accessory.
The Wollemi was known only from fossil records until David Noble, a park ranger, found the small stand in the Blue Mountains, 125 miles (200km) west of Sydney, in 1994. He did not recognise them and took home a branch to show colleagues.
His discovery caused a scientific sensation, being called the botanical find of the century. The species had been thought extinct for at least two million years.
The director of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, Professor Carrick Chambers, said at the time that it was "the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth".
With just 100 specimens in the wild, the Wollemi is one of the world's rarest tree species. It is also one of the oldest, with origins that date back 200 million years. Now several hundred saplings, grown from cuttings taken from the original plants, are to be auctioned to fund future conservation efforts.
The first generation cultivated trees were presented yesterday at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Up to six years old and 2.5m (8ft) high, they are being sold with authentication certificates detailing their provenance, as well as care instructions. In the wild, they grow to up to 40 metres high, with a trunk diameter of more than a metre.
The auction also aims to help conserve the species. Horticulturalists believe that having Wollemi pines in homes, parks and gardens is one of the best forms of insurance against loss in the wild.
The chairman of Sotheby's Australia, Justin Millar, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the pines were "among the most exciting things I've ever sold". He said international collectors were likely to join the bidding. "There's been a lot of interest from Germany and the United Kingdom, certainly Japan, America."
The pines were found growing in a rainforest gorge surrounded by mountains and undisturbed forest. Their exact location has been kept secret, to shield them from thieves and trophy hunters. No roads lead to the area, and even scientists are blindfolded when flown into the site by helicopter.
Propagated plants are already on display around Australia and abroad, including the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and at Kew in London. The pines are expected to fetch from £640 apiece, to £22,000 for a collection of trees. Next year they will be widely available as pot plants.
- 2 Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
- 3 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Question Time's 'passionate highlander' is the William Wallace of the Better Together campaign
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...
£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...
£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...