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An enthralling detective story about evolution and natural history.
In mid-1994 a National Parks & Wildlife ranger abseiling in the Wollemi Wilderness outside Sydney, came upon an extraordinary sight: a canyon filled with massive pines. These trees towered above the surrounding foliage, with fern-like leaves and peculiar lumpy bark.
What he accidentally discovered that day has become one of the century's most important botanical finds. The ancient pines were thought to have become extinct millions of years ago. The Director of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens described the discovery as 'the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur still alive on Earth'.
This edition of The Wollemi Pine features a new chapter which examines the progress of the pine's reintroduction into civilisation, and some of the challenges and issues involved in its commercial propagation.
James Woodford is a science and environment writer for the Sydney Morning Herald. In 1996 he won the Eureka Prize for environmental journalism, and was awarded the prestigious Michael Daley prize for science journalism in 1996 and 1997. His hugely entertaining book on wombats, The Secret Life of Wombats, won the Royal Zoological Society of NSW Whitley Award for Best Natural History Book. He lives with his family on the south coast of NSW.
'An engrossing read for expert and layperson alike.' Australian Geographic
'A riveting discovery story.' Sun-Herald
'A fascinating tale of high adventure and mystery, of rivalries and jealousies, of legal and political twists and turns. A scientific thriller.' Advertiser
'it would be hard to go wrong with such a ripping yarn.' Meanjin
ANDI HORVATH: Hello, this is a Wollemi pine, and this magnificent specimen is at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne. In the wild, they can grow to about 40 meters and so wide, but 20 years ago, we really didn't even know they existed.
The only known living wild specimens of the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), a species thought to have become extinct on the mainland approximately thirty million years ago, were discovered in three small stands within deep canyons in 1994.
The bark of the tree is bubbly in appearance, chocolate brown colour in colour. It is monoecious, meaning that each plant has both male and female sexual reproductive cones.
"The Wollemi pine is a critically endangered iconic species that must be conserved at all costs," she said.