Common Name: Woolemi pine.
Etymology: Woolemia: Tree was discovered in Woolemi National Park, noblis: by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger David Noble.
Description: Slow growing evergreen tree (conifer), often multi-stemmed reaching 25–40 m tall. Living for up to 1000 years
Foliage: The leaves are flat linear, 3–8 cm long and 2–5 mm broad. They are arranged spirally on the shoot but twisted at the base to appear in two or four flattened ranks. As the leaves mature, they develop from bright lime-green to a more yellowish-green.
Bark/Trunk: Bark is thin, fragile and densely covered with dark brown soft, spongy nodules or tubercles. The tree coppices readily, and most specimens are multiple-trunked or appear as clumps of trunks thought to derive from old coppice growth, with some consisting of up to 100 stems of differing sizes. The branching is unique in that nearly all the side branches never have further branching. After a few years, each branch either terminates in a cone (either male or female) or ceases growth. After this, or when the cone becomes mature, the branch dies. New branches then arise from dormant buds on the main trunk. Rarely, a side branch will turn erect and develop into a secondary trunk, which then bears a new set of side branches.
Cone: The seed cones are green, 6–12 cm long and 5–10 cm in diameter, and mature about 18–20 months after wind pollination. They disintegrate at maturity to release the seeds which are small and brown, thin and papery with a wing around the edge to aid wind-dispersal. The male (pollen) cones are slender conic, 5–11 cm long and 1–2 cm broad and reddish-brown in colour and are lower on the tree than the seed cones. Seedlings appear to be slow-growing.
Growth Requirements: Prefers acidic soil (pH 4-6). Has an extreme tolerance to temperature (-5 – +45 degrees Celsius). Has grown in conditions even beyond these limits.
Uses: Ornamental tree in open spaces, makes a good potted plant when young, good talking point when you have a living fossil in your backyard, repopulating a critically endangered species.
Propagation: Plants can be grown from seed or struck from tip cuttings. Cuttings require a strong breeding hormone (5,000-10,000 gms/litre) to promote root growth. Plant initially in river-sand then a pine-bark,river-sand mix after around 6 months when struck. An interesting note about striking the Wollemi Pine is that cuttings taken from the top of the tree will produce a vertical growing plant, whilst cuttings taken from the bottom of the tree will produce horizontal growth. The aim of releasing the Wollemi Pine in the first place is to safeguard its long term survival by removing the threat of visits to the wild population.
Sources of information:
-Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne.