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Ireland Receives First Wollemi Pine at Glasnevin

20 September 2005

Planting the 1st Wollemi

The Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) is one of the world's oldest and rarest tree species belonging to a 200 million-year-old plant family. It was known from fossil records and presumed extinct until it was discovered in 1994 by a bushwalker in the Wollemi National Park just outside Australia's largest city, Sydney. Dubbed the botanical find of the century, the Wollemi Pine is closely related to the Monkey Puzzle tree, in the Araucariaceae. Similar plants were known from fossil records, and the discovery of living plants was akin to finding a dinosaur alive on earth today.

Since its extraordinary discovery it has become famous throughout the world and propagation programmes have begun. Ireland's first Wollemi pines have been sent to the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, where last week Mr Ahern planted the first one.

The National Botanic Gardens have received 30 trees for trialling in state-owned properties throughout the country. This is to determine the hardiness of the tree in different parts of Ireland. During his visit to the Gardens Mr Ahern was able to visit the Rainforest House that was built inside the Palm House during Heritage Week by three Mayan craftsmen.

The Wollemi Pine is a majestic conifer that grows up to 40 metres high in the wild with a trunk diameter of over one metre. It is the third living genus in the family Araucariaceae. A remarkable feature is its pattern of branching with the mature foliage having two ranks of leaves along the branches. DNA studies on all the plants that are known reveals that all individuals are just a single genetic clone. The tree is being propagated in large numbers and distributed throughout the world.

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