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14 Dec 2017

Oh Christmas Tree

Three sibling Wollemi pine trees are the focus of Christmas celebrations at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah.

The three trees are the oldest Wollemi pine trees outside of the Blue Mountains canyon where they grow in the wild, having been grown from the first seed collected in 1994.

Garden staff have been decorating their Australian Christmas trees with tinsel and ornaments and are hoping that everyone with a Wollemi pine in their garden will do the same. The Wollemi pine is the Christmas equivalent of bilbies at Easter. It is Australian made and a threatened species.

Wollemi pines have been growing in popularity as a local alternative to European pines. Every Wollemi pine tree grown helps to increase its population and guard against extinction. 

With less than 100 individual trees known to grow in the original wild site, the species was on the brink of extinction when a bushwalker stumbled across them in a remote canyon of the Wollemi National Park in 1994.

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s tree is growing in the heart of the garden, having been planted by Dr Cathy Offord in 1996 (a photo of the planting is included in the video above). As a newly discovered species dating back to the days of dinosaurs, the young tree was initially displayed in a cage to stop would-be plant thieves.

Now over 6 metres tall, the Wollemi pine is a healthy adult and produces its own reproductive cones. Seeds form over the summer months and are collected for future propagation and research.

Donning a Christmas hat, bright red pants and a safety harness, curator of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney Dr Dale Dixon used a cherry picker to decorate the top branches of the garden’s Wollemi pine.

It was a wonderful Christmas spectacle that drew a crowd. Many passers-by stopped to help, adding baubles to the lower branches and taking Wollemi pine selfies.

Check out the video above to see Dale in action.

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