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Published April 28th 2016
Discovering Dinosaur Trees on Display
The Wollemi National Park, only 200 km from Sydney, is home to the Wollemi Pine, one of the world's oldest and rarest trees. Often referred to as the "dinosaur tree" or a "living fossil", the Wollemi Pine was thought to be extinct and was only known from fossil records until its exciting discovery in 1994. Even twenty years later the exact location of the trees is a closely guarded secret in order to protect the area from human interference and diseases.
While there are estimated to be less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, scientists have been working to safeguard the survival of the species by propagating the plant from seed. As such it is possible to see the rare Wollemi Pine outside of the ancient wilderness of the Wollemi National Park in a few locations in Sydney.
At the Australian Botanic Garden in Mount Annan, scientists have been working to learn about the trees, their ecology and biology, and have cultivated a collection of trees from seeds and cuttings. They can be seen in several areas of the gardens.
On the Wollemi Walk of Discovery you can learn the fascinating story of the Wollemi Pine while you view them under a canopy of larger trees.
The Wollemi Pine is an attractive tree, with long fern like branches, with leaves coloured bright lime green when young and a darker bluish green when mature. On older trees you will notice strange nodules on the bark which look a little like cocoa pops.
The unusual bark of a mature Wollemi Pine
Behind the Visitor Centre at the Australian Botanic Garden is a large Wollemi Pine which is nearly twenty years old and stands over 10 metres tall. At the base of the tree it has produced multiple branches, just like these plants do in the wild. If you look up you can seen the top of the tree sitting above the canopy of other trees reaching for the sun. It definitely looks like something out of Jurassic Park.
2. Royal Botanic Garden Sydney If you want to see the Wollemi Pine in the heart of Sydney then a visit to the Royal Botanic Garden is a must. The Wollemi Pine has been described as one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time. With such limited numbers growing in the wild it is classified as an endangered species and the Royal Botanic Garden is involved with many research projects to learn more and help to ensure its protection and survival. The Royal Botanic Garden is located right on Sydney Harbour and here you can view a Wollemi Pine at the 'roundabout' north of the Palm House on the eastern side of the gardens. If you need help finding it there is an information booth at the centre of the gardens. Alternatively you can join a free tour from the information booth every day at 10:30am and 1pm.
3. Taronga Zoo Another location to view the Wollemi Pine is Taronga Zoo. In the zoo you will find the trees in the Wollemi / Blue Mountains exhibit, (see map Reference 5H here) along with a bushwalk experience that is home to over 200 native animals local to the Blue Mountains area. See platypus, echidnas, wallabies, reptiles and birds in the largest walk through aviary in Australasia.
4. Blue Mountains Botanic Garden
In the Blue Mountains of Sydney you can visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah to see Wollemi Pines. Wollemi Pines are located in several places in the Garden and there is also a group of them very near the Visitors Centre.
5. In your own backyard?
The Wollemi Pine was released for sale to the public in 2006, so perhaps you are lucky enough to have your own "living fossil", the Wollemi Pine, growing at your place. I'd be very jealous if you do!
Not many know this but I wrote and recorded a song about the Wollemi pine. Denis Kevans (Australia's poet Lorrikeet) wrote a few verses with me, I wrote the music. It got played on ABC's Science Show and got played many times on ABC's Australia All Over. This song is on my second album called 'The Wollemi Pine'. I have sung it at many venues over the years including at the National Folk Festival and also for a few schools in Sydney. I have also painted the Wollemi pine. Sonia Bennett singer/songwriter/botanical artist.