'Dinosaur tree' or 'living fossil', the Wollemi Pine is certainly one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time.
In September 1994, NSW National Parks Wildlife Service officer, David Noble, discovered some trees he didn't quite recognise. In a deep, narrow canyon of the rugged Wollemi National Park, he discovered what we now call Wollemia nobilis or the Wollemi Pine.
The dramatic discovery of an evolutionary line thought to be long extinct is even more remarkable because these tall and striking trees grow only 150 kilometres from Sydney, Australia's largest city. They were found in the extremely rugged Wollemi National Park, a largely undisturbed wilderness area.
It's rare, it's endangered, it's strange looking, and at first we didn't know all that much about it. Now worldwide demand for this plant is enormous and Mount Annan Botanic Garden is researching the horticultural development of the Wollemi Pine.
Wollemi Pines have been growing from seeds and cuttings under the watchful eyes of the Horticultural Research team at the Australian Botanic Garden since early 1995.
Wollemi Pines are available to buy at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. So now you can learn about this interesting species while helping to conserve it.
The plant grows especially well in a pot and can be grown in many garden situations. They grow surprisingly fast for conifers. After an initial slow start, cultivated seedlings grow to about one metre after three years, with a diameter near the base of about 30 millimetres.
Be aware that this is a rare emergent rainforest tree, and although it has survived in the wild over many millennia, some growing situations are better than others.
Wollemi Pines need some protection from full sunlight when they are young and they do best where the roots have a cool root run.
On average they grow around half a metre per year (although growth in the tough conditions in cultivation as well as in the wild is much, much slower). They start growing in early spring and grow mostly upwards for around two months. After this, they concentrate their energy on growing outwards.
This species favours acid soil - in their habitat the pH is as low as 4, and in potted cultivation they favour a pH of less than 6. Although their habitat soil is naturally low in nutrients, Wollemi Pines respond well to fertiliser.
Young plants in cultivation need some protection from strong light provided by shade cloth or the shelter of other trees.