Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Prehistoric tree planted in Kew

Another species long thought to have been extinct, the Jurassic-era Wollemi pine, will be planted today in Kew Gardens.

The Wollemi pine -up to 40 metres high and in fact, a conifer, not a pine - was discovered by accident by David Noble, a National Parks officer, in a gorge in the Blue Mountains of Australia in 1994. Later, astonished experts confirmed that he had stumbled across a new genus with a very ancient lineage: a sample of Jurassic bark. They named it after him, and went looking for more specimens.

Fewer than 100 mature trees had survived the breakup of ancient continents, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, and dramatic changes in climate, to cling to survival in one tiny, secret corner of the world.

The tree flourished in Jurassic conditions, long before the appearance of modern mammals. Dinosaurs must have foraged in its leaves, pterosaurs taken flight from its branches. Its home would have been part of a vast supercontinent called Gondwana, that later splintered into Africa, Australia, South America, India and Antarctica. It survived a complete reshuffle of the world's landscape and 17 ice ages.

There are lots of pictures at wollemipine.com.


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