Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gardening Visit with Rare Wollemi Pine Tree

Thanks to David Noble and his mountain repeling and backpacking, or bushwalking as the Australians call it, in the Wollemi National Park that led to his discovery of the Wollemi Pine trees. I got to visit with some up close recently at the USBG (United States Botanic Garden) in Washington d.c. These trees have been through many ice ages scientists say and were only found in the Blue Mountains growing on damp ledges hidden in a rainforest gorge in the Wollemi National Park in Australia.

David worked for the park and was a wildlife and park services officer. He thought this an unusual tree and brought a branch back to his colleagues to identify it. One person thought it looked like some type of fern.

A closer look shows how one could think they were ferns. In fact to me if you took one branch off away from the tree it looks similar to a sago palm frond. Different from other pines it grows these chocolate like blisters all along it lower trunk. Scientists determined it was like finding a living green dinosaur and gave it a new genus. It was named Wollemia nobilis. Wollemia, after the park where it was found and nobilis, after David Noble.

Just hearing how he had to repel down a canyon behind a frozen waterfall and came upon these trees makes you want to visit the exact location, but maybe in warmer conditions...okay and not repeling down the face of a cliff. The park is huge and maybe there are more botanical discoveries yet to be made in it?

The word wollemi means to "watch out" or "keep your eyes open."

National Geographic was selling small trees for 99.00 and some of the money goes to conserving and growing them. It would definitely be a great gift for the person who has everything. It is being propograted by select nurseries in a small number of countries now.

On another note...Outside USBG there were two gardeners cleaning up here and there the already immaculate gardens. One was cutting back the wisteria and kindly gave me some seeds to add to my traveling collection. There is a story behind every plant and shrub in one's garden and mine have a few.

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