The Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) is one of the world’s rarest plants and was only recently rediscovered. There are only three strands of adult Wollemi Pines known in the wild and each individual tree is numbered and sometimes named.
The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s Wollemi Pine tree is growing in the heart of the Garden, having been planted by Principal Research Scientist from the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan Dr Cathy Offord in 1996. As a newly discovered species dating back to the days of dinosaurs, the young tree was initially displayed in a cage to stop would-be plant thieves.
Now over 6 metres tall, the Wollemi pine is a healthy adult and produces its own reproductive cones. Seeds form over the summer months and are collected for future propagation and research.
This special tree is one of the oldest Wollemi pine trees outside of the Blue Mountains canyon where they grow in nature, having been grown from the first seed collected in 1994.
Garden staff have been decorating their Australian Christmas trees with tinsel and ornaments for years and are hoping that everyone with a Wollemi pine in their garden will do the same. The Wollemi pine is the Christmas equivalent of bilbies at Easter. It is Australian made and a threatened species.
Santa is a horticulturist
In full Santa suit (on a vvery warm summer day) and a safety harness, Director of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Jimmy Turner used a cherry picker to decorate the top branches of the Garden's Christmas Tree. He had help from the many passers-by that stopped to add baubles to the lower branches and taking Wollemi pine and Santa selfies.
Check out the video below to see Santa Jimmy in action.
Grow your own Wollemi Pine
The Garden shops in Sydney, Mount Annan and Mount Tomah, as well as many nurseries have these prehistoric plants available for you to take home and enjoy all year around.
If you want to hear more about Wollemi Pines, Dr Cathy Offord, is one of the few people who have been allowed to trek to a secret canyon site where some trees as old as 1,000 years are growing in Wollemi National Park. Learn more about her research in this episode of Branch Out.