Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine) - A fast growing conifer that sprouts multiple trunks to 130 feet tall (in hhabitat) with bubbly brown bark and bearing new growth of flat sprays of oppositely ranked soft needles that are at first apple green but age to blue-green much like a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) or Chinese plum yew (Cephalotaxus fortunei ). As trees age the mature foliage is distinctly different, looking more like that of the related Araucaria with leaves more yellow green, stiffer and held upright in oposite double ranks. It is at the tips of these mature branches that cones, both a male and a female, form. In winter as growth slows the tree develops dormant buds that are attractively covered with a pink waxy material from which new foliage erupts in the spring.
Plant in a container in good potting soil or in the garden in light shade to full sun in a well-drained soil, preferably acidic (there is speculation is that it may tolerate neutral or even slightly basic soils) and give regular to occasional irrigation but allow soil to dry between applications. Known in its native habitat to be hardy to low temperature extremes of 23°F but trials in other parts of the world indicate it can tolerate as low as 10.4°F.
This is one of the world's oldest and rarest plants that until recently was only known in the fossil record. In 1994 David Noble, a National Parks and Wildlife Services Officer, discovered a small grove of this "living fossil" while hiking at 2,200 to 2,600 feet in Wollemi National Park in the Blue Mountains, about 125 miles west of Sydney, Australia. Mr. Noble returned with a piece of the plant and to the amazement of botanists it was determined to be a plant in the Araucariaceae that had long thought to be extinct. Since its discovery two additional small groves have been discovered in the same habitat of moist ledges in rainforest gorges surrounded by steep undisturbed forest. There are about 40 adult trees and 200 juveniles known to exist in the wild with the largest reaching to 130 feet tall and having a 2 foot wide trunk. This plant stump sprouts and it is thought that the rootstock of the oldest is more than 1,000 years old. Before this discovery the Wollemi Pine was only known in the fossil record and thought to be widespread in times past from across the supercontinent of Gondwana dating back at least to 91 million years ago and perhaps even to the Jurassic period (200 million years BP) before seemingly becoming extinct 2 million years ago. These three groves are now the focus of extensive research to conserve this species.
The name Wollemia is the Latin form of the word Wollemi, the name of the National Park in New South Wales where the trees are naturally found. The name Wollemi is an Aboriginal word meaning "look around you" or "keep your eyes open" or "watch out". The specific epithet nobilis honors David Noble, who first discovered a living specimen of this tree. It is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Sales outside of Australia have been very limited with the first general release in the U.S. made by The National Geographic Society in late 2006. Thanks to the efforts of Suzi and Bruce Ironmonger of the Cycad Center of Bonsal, CA we were able to offer this plant starting in 2008 to our wholesale nursery customers. We grew these trees up to he 24 inch box size and sold all that were available by 2018. We continue to keep some stock as propagation stock and hope to again have this tree in the future.
The information about Wollemia nobilis displayed on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources we consider reliable. We will also relate those observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments we receive from others and welcome hearing from anyone who has additional information, particularly when they share cultural information that would aid others in growing it.