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Temporal range:
Jurassic to recent 200–0  Ma
Young specimen in a botanical garden protected from theft by a steel cage
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Araucariaceae
Genus: Wollemia
W.G.Jones, K.D.Hill & J.M.Allen
W. nobilis
Binomial name
Wollemia nobilis
W.G.Jones, K.D.Hill & J.M.Allen

Wollemia[ needs IPA ] is a genus of coniferous tree in the family Araucariaceae. Wollemia was only known through fossil records until the Australian species Wollemia nobilis was discovered in 1994 in a temperate rainforest wilderness area of the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, in a remote series of narrow, steep-sided sandstone gorges 150 km north-west of Sydney. The genus is named for the National Park. [2]

Pinophyta division of plants

The Pinophyta, also known as Coniferophyta or Coniferae, or commonly as conifers, are a division of vascular land plants containing a single extant class, Pinopsida. They are gymnosperms, cone-bearing seed plants. All extant conifers are perennial woody plants with secondary growth. The great majority are trees, though a few are shrubs. Examples include cedars, Douglas firs, cypresses, firs, junipers, kauri, larches, pines, hemlocks, redwoods, spruces, and yews. As of 1998, the division Pinophyta was estimated to contain eight families, 68 genera, and 629 living species.

Tree Perennial woody plant with elongated trunk

In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, supporting branches and leaves in most species. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. Trees are not a taxonomic group but include a variety of plant species that have independently evolved a woody trunk and branches as a way to tower above other plants to compete for sunlight. Trees tend to be long-lived, some reaching several thousand years old. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees. Trees have been in existence for 370 million years. It is estimated that there are just over 3 trillion mature trees in the world.


In both botanical and popular literature the tree has been almost universally referred to as the Wollemi pine, although it is not a true pine (genus Pinus ) nor a member of the pine family (Pinaceae), but, rather, is related to Agathis and Araucaria in the family Araucariaceae. The oldest fossil of the Wollemi tree has been dated to 200 million years ago. [3]

Pinaceae family of plants

The Pinaceae are trees or shrubs, including many of the well-known conifers of commercial importance such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, pines and spruces. The family is included in the order Pinales, formerly known as Coniferales. Pinaceae are supported as monophyletic by their protein-type sieve cell plastids, pattern of proembryogeny, and lack of bioflavonoids. They are the largest extant conifer family in species diversity, with between 220 and 250 species in 11 genera, and the second-largest in geographical range, found in most of the Northern Hemisphere, with the majority of the species in temperate climates, but ranging from subarctic to tropical. The family often forms the dominant component of boreal, coastal, and montane forests. One species, Pinus merkusii, grows just south of the equator in Southeast Asia. Major centres of diversity are found in the mountains of southwest China, Mexico, central Japan, and California.

<i>Agathis</i> genus of plants

Agathis, commonly known as kauri or dammara, is a genus of 22 species of evergreen tree. The genus is part of the ancient conifer family Araucariaceae, a group once widespread during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, but now largely restricted to the Southern Hemisphere except for a number of extant Malesian Agathis.

<i>Araucaria</i> genus of plants

Araucaria is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees in the family Araucariaceae. There are 20 extant species in New Caledonia, Norfolk Island, eastern Australia, New Guinea, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Paraguay.

The Wollemi pine is classified as critically endangered (CR) on the IUCN's Red List, [1] and is legally protected in Australia. [4] A Recovery Plan has been drawn up, outlining strategies for the management of this fragile population; the overall objective is to ensure that this species remains viable in the long term. [4]

Critically endangered IUCN conservation category

A critically endangered (CR) species is one that has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

International Union for Conservation of Nature international organisation

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable".

IUCN Red List inventory of the global conservation status of biological species

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, founded in 1965, has evolved to become the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity. A series of Regional Red List are produced by countries or organizations, which assess the risk of extinction to species within a political management unit.


Bark of W. nobilis Wollemia bark.JPG
Bark of W. nobilis

Wollemia nobilis is an evergreen tree reaching 25–40 m (82–131 ft) tall. The bark is very distinctive, dark brown and knobbly, quoted as resembling Coco Pops breakfast cereal. [5] 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. [4] The branching is unusual 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.

Evergreen plant that has leaves in all four seasons

In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves throughout the year that are always green. This is true even if the plant retains its foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season. There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include:

Bark (botany) external parenchymal tissue, located just below the epidermis in the primary structure of the stem

Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines, and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside the vascular cambium and is a nontechnical term. It overlays the wood and consists of the inner bark and the outer bark. The inner bark, which in older stems is living tissue, includes the innermost area of the periderm. The outer bark in older stems includes the dead tissue on the surface of the stems, along with parts of the innermost periderm and all the tissues on the outer side of the periderm. The outer bark on trees which lies external to the last formed periderm is also called the rhytidome.

Conifer cone Reproductive organ on conifers

A cone is an organ on plants in the division Pinophyta (conifers) that contains the reproductive structures. The familiar woody cone is the female cone, which produces seeds. The male cones, which produce pollen, are usually herbaceous and much less conspicuous even at full maturity. The name "cone" derives from the fact that the shape in some species resembles a geometric cone. The individual plates of a cone are known as scales.

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. [6] 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. [4] 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. [4] Seedlings appear to be slow-growing [4] and mature trees are extremely long-lived; some of the older individuals today are estimated to be between 500 and 1,000 years old. [6]

Leaf organ of a vascular plant, composing its foliage

A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant and is the principal lateral appendage of the stem. The leaves and stem together form the shoot. Leaves are collectively referred to as foliage, as in "autumn foliage".

Seed embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering

A seed is an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering. The formation of the seed is part of the process of reproduction in seed plants, the spermatophytes, including the gymnosperm and angiosperm plants.

Pollen fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants

Pollen is a fine to coarse powdery substance comprising pollen grains which are male microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce male gametes. Pollen grains have a hard coat made of sporopollenin that protects the gametophytes during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants, or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. If pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone, it germinates, producing a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule containing the female gametophyte. Individual pollen grains are small enough to require magnification to see detail. The study of pollen is called palynology and is highly useful in paleoecology, paleontology, archaeology, and forensics. Pollen in plants is used for transferring haploid male genetic material from the anther of a single flower to the stigma of another in cross-pollination. In a case of self-pollination, this process takes place from the anther of a flower to the stigma of the same flower.


Male and female W. nobilis cones Wollemia cones.JPG
Male and female W. nobilis cones
Young W. nobilis pollen cone Wollemia nobilis cone.jpg
Young W. nobilis pollen cone

The discovery, on or about 10 September 1994, by David Noble, Michael Casteleyn and Tony Zimmerman, only occurred because the group had been systematically exploring the area looking for new canyons. Noble had good botanical knowledge, and quickly recognised the trees as unusual because of the unique bark and worthy of further investigation. He took specimens to work for identification, expecting someone to be able to identify the plants. National Parks then went under a veil of secrecy, with the discoverers not learning the full magnitude of their discovery for about six months. National Parks came close to damaging the stand when a helicopter being used to collect cones inadvertently pruned one of the pines with its rotor. [7] The species was subsequently named after Dave. The other members of the discovery party questioned the naming but were informed that nobilis referred to the trees being noble in structure and not to David Noble. [8]

David Noble (canyoner) Australian botanist

David 'Dave' Noble discovered the Wollemi pine on or about 10 September 1994. Thus, the scientific name of this species, Wollemia nobilis, is named after him.

The first illustrations of the Wollemi Pine were done by David Mackay, a botanical artist and scientific illustrator who was working at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney when the species was discovered. [9]

Further study would be needed to establish its relationship to other conifers. The initial suspicion was that it had certain characteristics of the 200-million-year-old family Araucariaceae, but was not similar to any living species in the family. Comparison with living and fossilised Araucariaceae proved that it was a member of that family, and it has been placed into a new genus with Agathis and Araucaria .

Fossils closely resembling Wollemia that are thought to be related to it are widespread in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica from Cretaceous era sediments, but Wollemia nobilis is the sole living member of its genus. These trees remained common throughout eastern Australia until around 40 million years ago but then gradually declined in range and abundance. Before the relict population was discovered in Wollemi National Park, the most recent known fossils of the genus date from approximately 2 million years ago in Tasmania. [10] [11] It is thus described as a living fossil or, alternatively, a Lazarus taxon.

Fewer than a hundred trees are known to be growing wild, in three localities not far apart. It is very difficult to count individuals, as most trees are multistemmed and may have a connected root system. Genetic testing has revealed that all the specimens are genetically indistinguishable, suggesting that the species has been through a genetic bottleneck in which its population became so low (possibly just one or two individuals) that all genetic variability was lost. [12]

In November 2005, wild-growing trees were found to be infected with Phytophthora cinnamomi . [13] New South Wales park rangers believe the virulent water mould was introduced by unauthorised visitors to the site, the location of which is still undisclosed to the public. [13]

Cultivation and uses

Cultivated Wollemia nobilis Wollemia nobilis sapling.jpg
Cultivated Wollemia nobilis

A propagation programme made Wollemi pine specimens available to botanical gardens, first in Australia in 2006 and subsequently throughout the world. It may prove to be a valuable tree for ornament, either planted in open ground or for tubs and planters. In Australia, potted native Wollemi pines have been promoted as a Christmas tree. [14] It is also proving to be more adaptable and cold-hardy than its restricted temperate-subtropical, humid distribution would suggest, tolerating temperatures between −5 and 45 °C (23 and 113 °F), with reports, from Japan and the USA, that it can survive down to −12 °C (10 °F). A grove of Wollemi pines planted in Inverewe Garden, Scotland, believed to be the most northerly location of any successful planting, have survived temperatures of −7 °C (19 °F), recorded in January 2010. [15] It also handles both full sun and full shade. Like many other Australian trees, Wollemia is susceptible to the pathogenic water mould Phytophthora cinnamomi , so this may limit its potential as a timber tree. [16]

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney have published information on how to grow Wollemi Pines from seed which has been harvested from helicopters from the forest trees. The majority of seeds that fall from the cone are not viable so need to be sorted to retain the plump and dark ones. These can then be sown on top of seed raising mix and watered. Once the water has drained through the mix, the pot should be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated for two weeks. After this, the pot should be removed from the plastic bag and placed somewhere warm but not very sunny until the seed germinates (remembering to keep them moist but not wet). This could take several months. [17]

First Wollemi pine paper ever made First Wollemi Pine paper ever made in the world.jpg
First Wollemi pine paper ever made

In February 2019 environmental artist and papermaker, Sandra Hansen; [18] in conjunction with Rae Bolotin, of Bilpin International Ground for Creative Initiatives (BigCi) [19] ) received permission from the Blue Mountain Botanical Garden [20] to receive Wollemi Pine tree leaves for making botanical paper. Upon receiving these leaves Hansen created a number of pieces of paper, thus becoming the first person in the world to make Wollemi Pine paper.


The genus Wollemia shares morphological characteristics with the genera Araucaria and Agathis . Wollemia and Araucaria both have closely crowned sessile and amphistomatic leaves, and aristate bract scales, while Wollemia and Agathis both have fully fused bracts, ovuliferous scales, and winged seeds. [21] Scrutiny of the fossil record likewise does not clarify Wollemia’s relationship to Araucaria or Agathis, since the former has similarly disparate leaf characters in its adult and juvenile forms, and the latter has similar cone characters. [22] Further, the recent description of several extinct genera within the Araucariaceae points to complex relationships within the family and a significant loss of diversity since the Cretaceous. [23] [24] An early study of the rbcL gene sequence places Wollemia in the basal position of the Araucariaceae and as the sister group to Agathis and Araucaria. [25] In contrast, another study of the rbcL sequence shows that Wollemia is the sister group to Agathis and Araucaria is basal. [26] The different outgroup selection and genes used in previous studies are the reasons behind the discrepancy over the groupings of the three genera. [27] Later genetic studies corroborate Wollemia's placement in the Araucariaceae as sister to Agathis based on data from the 28s rRNA gene, [28] a combination of rbcL and matK genes, [29] and a comprehensive study encompassing nuclear ribosomal 18S and 26S rRNA, chloroplast 16S rRNA, rbcL, matK and rps4, and mitochondrial coxl and atp1 genes. [27]

Fossils indicate that the lineage leading to modern Agathis and Wollemia evolved from the common ancestor with Araucaria in the Early Cretaceous in southern Gondwana [30] within climates experiencing cool moist conditions and a strong photoperiod regime. [31] The most recent common ancestor of Agathis and Wollemia has been proposed to be at least 110 million years old (Early Cretaceous) deduced from the reported oldest fossils of these genera. [30] However, genetic evidence suggests that the divergence of Agathis and Wollemia occurred 61±15 Ma around the beginning of the Cenozoic rather than in the Early Cretaceous. [27] In another recent molecular study, an age of only 18 Ma was inferred for the divergence of Agathis and Wollemia. [32] This also accords with recent revisions of the fossil record in New Zealand that reveal no examples of Agathis or Wollemia-like remains older than the Cenozoic. [33] The relatively minor genetic and morphological diversity in extant species of Agathis compared to the variation in Araucaria is further evidence of the earlier divergence of Araucaria. [34]

Below is the phylogeny of the Araucariaceae based on the consensus from the most recent cladistic analysis of molecular data. It shows the relative positions of Wollemia, Agathis and Araucaria within the division.




Related Research Articles

<i>Araucaria araucana</i> species of plant

Araucaria araucana is an evergreen tree growing to 1–1.5 m (3–5 ft) in diameter and 30–40 m (100–130 ft) in height. It is native to central and southern Chile and western Argentina. Araucaria araucana is the hardiest species in the conifer genus Araucaria. Because of the longevity of this species, it is described as a living fossil. It is also the national tree of Chile. Its conservation status was changed to Endangered by the IUCN in 2013 due to the dwindling population caused by logging, forest fires, and grazing.

Araucariaceae – also known as araucarians – is a very ancient family of coniferous trees. The family achieved its maximum diversity during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, when it was distributed almost worldwide. Most of the Araucariaceae in the Northern Hemisphere vanished in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, and they are now largely confined to the Southern Hemisphere, except for a few species of Agathis in Southeast Asia.

Gymnosperm group of plants, at a varying rank

The gymnosperms, also known as Acrogymnospermae, are a group of seed-producing plants that includes conifers, cycads, Ginkgo, and gnetophytes. The term "gymnosperm" comes from the Greek composite word γυμνόσπερμος, meaning "naked seeds". The name is based on the unenclosed condition of their seeds. The non-encased condition of their seeds stands in contrast to the seeds and ovules of flowering plants (angiosperms), which are enclosed within an ovary. Gymnosperm seeds develop either on the surface of scales or leaves, which are often modified to form cones, or solitary as in Yew, Torreya, Ginkgo.

<i>Araucaria bidwillii</i> species of plant

Araucaria bidwillii, the bunya pine, is a large evergreen coniferous tree in the plant family Araucariaceae. It is found naturally in south-east Queensland Australia and two small disjunct populations in north eastern Queensland's World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. There are many old planted specimens in New South Wales, and around the Perth, Western Australia metropolitan area. They can grow up to 30–45 m (98–148 ft). The tallest presently living is one in Bunya Mountains National Park, Queensland which was reported by Robert Van Pelt in January 2003 to be 169 feet (51.5 m) in height.

<i>Sciadopitys</i> species of plant

Sciadopitys verticillata, koyamaki or Japanese umbrella-pine, is a unique conifer endemic to Japan. It is the sole member of the family Sciadopityaceae and genus Sciadopitys, a living fossil with no close relatives, and present in the fossil record for about 230 million years.

<i>Araucaria heterophylla</i> species of plant

Araucaria heterophylla is a vascular plant in the ancient and now disjointly distributed conifer family Araucariaceae. As its vernacular name Norfolk Island pine implies, the tree is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, about 1440 km east of Sydney, Australia. The genus Araucaria occurs across the South Pacific, especially concentrated in New Caledonia where 13 closely related and similar-appearing species are found. It is sometimes called a star pine, Polynesian pine, triangle tree or living Christmas tree, due to its symmetrical shape as a sapling, although it is not a true pine.

<i>Araucaria cunninghamii</i> species of plant

Araucaria cunninghamii is a species of Araucaria known as hoop pine. Other less commonly used names include colonial pine, Queensland pine, Dorrigo pine, Moreton Bay pine and Richmond River pine. The scientific name honours the botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham, who collected the first specimens in the 1820s.

Pinetree or pine tree may refer to:

<i>Agathis philippinensis</i> species of plant

Agathis philippinensis is a species of large Agathis tree native to the Philippines, Sulawesi and Halmahera, where it occurs in upland tropical rainforest at 450-2,200 m altitude, rarely as low as 250 m in northern Luzon.

<i>Agathis ovata</i> species of plant

Agathis ovata, the mountain kauri, is a species of conifer, genus Agathis in the Araucariaceae family. It is found only on the southwest Pacific island of New Caledonia. It is threatened by habitat loss.

<i>Araucaria columnaris</i> species of plant

Araucaria columnaris, the coral reef araucaria, Cook pine, New Caledonia pine, Cook araucaria, or columnar araucaria, is a species of conifer in the family Araucariaceae.

<i>Araucaria luxurians</i> species of plant

Araucaria luxurians is a species of conifer in the family Araucariaceae. It is known by the common names Sapin de Noël and Coast araucaria. It is endemic to New Caledonia, where it grows in several small subpopulations. It grows in ultramafic soils in humid forests and on cliffs and slopes. It is threatened by habitat loss and none of the subpopulations are in protected areas.

<i>Araucaria rulei</i> species of plant

Araucaria rulei is a species of conifer in the family Araucariaceae. It is endemic to New Caledonia, where it is an endangered species. Its populations are fragmented and are generally made up of scattered individuals. It is restricted to serpentine soils, often with high nickel levels, and its natural range is almost completely restricted to areas rich in nickel. Nickel mining in New Caledonia has consequently been a major cause of its decline.

<i>Araucaria mirabilis</i> species of plant

Araucaria mirabilis is an extinct species of coniferous tree from Patagonia, Argentina. It belongs to the section Bunya of the genus Araucaria.

Araucaria haastii is an extinct species of conifer tree formerly native to New Zealand. A large number of fossilised tree specimens from the Araucariaceae family have been found in New Zealand, but in many cases the level of preservation is not sufficient to reliably distinguish between Araucaria species and Agathis species.

New Caledonian <i>Araucaria</i>

The main diversity among genus Araucaria is hosted in New Caledonia, where 14 species, all endemic, are described out of a total of 20 extant species. These New Caledonian species are mainly found as dispersed populations in open areas, where competition is less intense.


This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Wollemia" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GFDL.

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