Wollemia is a monotypic genus. This, the newest conifer, was discovered in August 1994. Of the other extant Araucariaceae, the new genus appears closest to Agathis, but it has many features in common with Cretaceous and early Tertiary fossil groups such as Araucarioides, and may be closer to these. Pollen also more closely resembles fossil pollen examples than pollen of either living genus (Anonymous 1999).
DNA samples taken from several of the 39 known wild plants is showing no discernible variation, suggesting that the sole known population is entirely clonal (Payne 1998). Analysis of chloroplast DNA (the rbcL gene) from Wollemia along with 5 species of Araucaria and 4 species of Agathis indicate that Araucariaceae, Agathis and Araucaria are all monophyletic, with Wollemia the sister group to Agathis (Gilmore and Hill 1997).
Leaves on adult lateral shoots are one of the most distinctive features of the new discovery, being arranged to present four ranks, with two ranks at about 150-175° and the other two ranks lying between the first two at about 50-90° (Anonymous 1999).
Currently known only from a very wet and sheltered gorge in the Wollemi National Park, in a rugged mountainous area of the Blue Mountains within 200 km north-west of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia (Anonymous 1999). The wild population consists of about 40 adult plants and about 200 seedlings (Anonymous 1998). There is a very active effort underway to grow the plants off-site for ornamental use, and exports began in early 2006. Conversely, the species is threatened onsite by a root rot fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi, that was likely introduced by unauthorized visitors to the site (Phytophthora spores can easily be transported in soil residues on the soles of shoes, and authorized visitors have long been required to observe sterilization procedures) (Salleh 2005).
The IUCN reports that this species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild because the population consists of fewer than 50 mature individuals.
No use to date (2001).
No use known before the tree's discovery. At this time, it is regarded as being at great risk from unauthorized collection and the Australian government has instituted a program to establish an ample stock of nursery plants to serve the desires of collectors and botanical gardens.
Because the native stock is extremely small, it could easily by wiped out by collectors. Thus, its location is being kept secret. Efforts to reproduce the plant have been successful and seedlings will soon be distributed to botanical gardens and will be available to collectors.
Australia's Royal Botanical Garden is very proud of Australia's newly-discovered conifer; it has its own home page (Anonymous 1999), featuring descriptions and images.
This species is currently listed on the index of threatened Australian plant species.
"Adult and juvenile shoots of Wollemia differ in leaf arrangement, leaf shape, and cuticular features: in these features they are most similar to Araucaria. The cone scales have a long, distal spine reminiscent of Araucaria section Eutacta, but the winged seeds that are ontogenetically free from, and shed independently from, the cone scale are similar to Agathis. Shoots with variable leaf types, Araucaria-like cone scales, and Agathis- like winged seeds are found in several plant fossil assemblages from the Cretaceous of Australia; these fossil conifers, which had been recognized as araucarian, can now be favorably compared with Wollemia. Pollen of Wollemia is indistinguishable from the fossil pollen form-genus Dilwynites, which has a fossil record extending back to the Late Cretaceous in Australia and New Zealand. Reexamination of Mesozoic and Tertiary paleofloras will most probably reveal an important contribution of Wollemia to the fossil record of Araucariaceae" (Chambers et al. 1998).
Jones, W.G., K.D. Hill and J.M. Allen. 1995. Wollemia nobilis, a new living Australian genus and species in the Araucariaceae. Telopea 6: 173-176).
Salleh, Anna. 2005. Wollemi pine infected by fungus. ABC Science Online. http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1497961.htm, accessed 2007.01.06.
wollemipine.com provides a variety of information (2006.08.10).
Anonymous. (1995). Fears for ancient pines after scavengers find secret grove. Sydney Morning Herald 24-02-95:1.
Anon. (1995). 'Extinct' native pine rediscovered [Wollemi pine, discovered in an almost inaccessible part of the Wollemi National Park, about 200 kms. west of Sydney, was believed to have become extinct 150 million years ago]. The Greener Times, Jan.:7.
Anon. (1995). Checks on site of rare trees. [Wollemi Pines] Sydney Morning Herald 28-02-95:5.
Chambers, T.C., A.N. Drinnan, and S. McLoughlin. 1998. Some morphological features of Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis: Araucariaceae) and their comparison to Cretaceous plant fossils. Int. J. Plant Sci. 159: 160-171.
Dettmann, M.E. and D.M. Jarzen. 2000. Pollen of extant Wollemia (Wollemi pine) and comparisons with pollen of other extant and fossil Araucariaceae. P. 187-203 in Pollen and Spores Morphology and Biology (M.M. Harley, C.M. Morton and S. Blackmore, eds.). R. Bot. Gard. Kew.
Greenaway, C. 1995. Jurassic pines in Wollemi Park. Wildlife Australia 32(1):3.
Hill, Ken D. 1997. The Wollemi Pine: A recently discovered Australian genus of Araucariaceae. American Journal of Botany 84(6) SUPPL., pp. 202-203.
Jones, W. 1995. Wollemi Pine - the missing link? [rediscovery of population of 23 adults and 16 juveniles in Wollemi National Park, N.S.W.]. On the Brink 6: 2.
Macphail, M., K. Hill, A. Partridge, E. Truswell and C. Foster. 1995. Australia: Wollemi pine: old pollen records for a newly discovered genus of gymnosperm. Geol. Today March-April: 42-44.
Offord, C. 1996. Conserving the Wollemi Pine: an integrated approach. [Recovery Plan being prepared by ANCA. 'The simple act of visiting the site poses one of the greatest threats...' Danthonia 5(2) : 12-14.
Payne, Christine. 1998. The Wollemi pine - a portrait. http://www.axon.com.au/mindsight/Wollemi/index.htm (accessed 19-Jul-2001).
Woodford, James. 1995. Intruders damage Wollemi pines. The Age 24-02-1995: 5.
Woodford, James. 2000. The Wollemi Pine: The Incredible Discovery of a Living Fossil From the Age of the Dinosaurs. Australia. Text Publishing.
Last Modified 2013-12-17