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Botanical Breakthrough: Ancient 'Dinosaur Trees' Thought Extinct for 2 Million Years Rediscovered

Ancient Trees Thought Extinct 2 Million Years Rebound in Australia
Source: MEGA

The Wollemi pine, an ancient tree species thought extinct for 2 million years, is making a gradual resurgence across top-secret locations in Australia.

Feb. 14 2024, Published 3:02 p.m. ET

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In a remarkable turn of events, one of the planet's oldest and rarest tree species is experiencing a gradual resurgence across covert locations in Australia, defying previous beliefs it went extinct 2 million years ago.

Termed by scientists as "the botanical find of the century," the rediscovery of the ancient Wollemi pine has captivated experts and enthusiasts alike, unveiling a living relic often referred to as the "dinosaur tree."

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With fossil records tracing its lineage back 91 million years, the Wollemi pine stands as a testament to endurance within the plant kingdom, belonging to a venerable family that spans 200 million years, as detailed by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Initially presumed extinct until 1994, when a small cluster was stumbled upon nestled in a remote rainforest canyon of the Greater Blue Mountains in New South Wales (NSW), the Wollemi pine's survival story has been a source of astonishment.

Dave Crust, Blue Mountains branch director of the NPWS, remarked on the significance of this discovery, highlighting the resilience of a species that persisted in a secluded canyon within Wollemi National Park.

Presently, a mere 89 Wollemi pines grace the wild grove, a precarious population that underscores the urgent need for conservation efforts.

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With meticulous care and dedication spanning three decades, NPWS conservationists have worked to replenish the species by planting hundreds of trees across designated sites, aiming to safeguard its future.

Yet, the Wollemi pine's journey to rejuvenation is hindered by its exceptionally sluggish growth rate.

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Berin Mackenzie, a research scientist, shed light on the arduous process, emphasizing that the seedlings require decades to reach maturity, ascending to the rainforest canopy to access vital sunlight.

Towering up to 40 meters in their natural habitat, mature Wollemi pines boast an impressive array of features, from their distinct red, "bubbly" bark to their canopy adorned with sharp, vibrant green leaves reminiscent of ferns.

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To shield these botanical treasures, both original and newfound groves remain undisclosed, guarded by strict regulations and enforced closures.

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe highlighted the importance of safeguarding these delicate ecosystems, citing potential fines and imprisonment for unauthorized access. Even conservationists must adhere to rigorous protocols, including the sterilization of equipment to prevent the spread of disease.


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