Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens occupy a lovely parcel of harbor-side land, right alongside Australia's biggest downtown district. On weekdays, the park fills with joggers, walkers and sandwich-eating hoards picnicking among its lush plantings. But one of the garden's 45,000 plants is strictly off-limits to the wandering public. The Wollemi Pine, an odd and scruffy looking specimen, is tightly encased in a 15 foot high steel cage, well out of reach. A sign nearby explains why; the tree is among the rarest on earth.

In fact, until 11 years ago, the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was known only through the fossil record and presumed extinct. That was until a young Australian explorer David Noble, and two of his friends, abseiled down a gorge in the untamed Wollemi National Park, 150 km northwest of the city, and stumbled across a stand of enormous trees with bark bubbled like breakfast cereal...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?