30 May 2019
Living fossils: Wakehurst's Wollemi pines
Meet our ancient trees which have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
A living fossil
Wollemi pines (Wollemia nobilis) were thought to be extinct for two million years.
But in 1994 a group of researchers were exploring the canyons of Wollemi in the Australian Blue Mountains, where they discovered a small group of them growing.
These trees were the last remaining plants of a species that once formed vast forests in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica at the time of the dinosaurs.
A new home at Wakehurst
To conserve the newly discovered species, the trees were propagated and distributed to botanic gardens around the world.
Wakehurst has 15 of the first ever Wollemi pines introduced to the UK.
For the first three years of their lives, the Wollemi pines were grown in the safety of Wakehurst's nursery.
They were individually surveyed and checked. Every centimetre of growth was recorded, along with the colour of their foliage and any signs of disease.
They were planted in Coates Wood, where they're happily growing at a rate of 30cm a year.
Wakehurst has some of the tallest trees, which have grown to the impressive height of over 8m.
A few years ago our Wollemi pines started to flower, and this autumn we were able to collect the seeds.
We sowed the seeds in the nursery, and over 20 seedlings are now growing well.
We hope to collect more seeds this year and add to the seeds stored in the Millennium Seed Bank, which will protect this incredible species for the future.