Wollemi nobilis, or Wollemi Pine, is an evergreen tree native to Australia and is considered the most threatened Gymnosperm in the world today. Since its discovery in 1994, scientists and horticulturists have rushed to propagate the tree in order to establish population outside of the original discovery. Described from fossils 65 to 90 million years old, living specimens were found in deep valleys of the Wollemi National Forest by David Noble, within 200 km of Sydney(!). The original population has less than 100 trees and its location is not advertised. Wollemi pines produce 3 types of foliage. New growth is apple-green and a bit fern-like. As the foliage matures, it turn blue-green with 2 rows of leaves per branch. In the colder months, the foliage has a bronze appearance. Mature trees will reach 60 feet (20 m) in height. During the winter months, the growing buds of the tree develop a white waxy coating called polar caps. These caps protect the growing tips from frost damage. When new growth starts in spring, the caps disappear as new growth starts. They are very easy trees to grow and are hardy in the landscape in USDA zones 7-11.
Blooming: Our plant has yet to produce cones.
Culture: Wollemi nobilis needs full sun to partial shade or full shade when very young, with a moist rich soil mix. The soil should have a pH of 5.5-6.5 for best growth. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 1 part loam to 1 part sand. The trees are well watered and not watered again until the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil dry out. The trees respond well to low phosphate fertilizers. We feed our tree monthly with a 5-1-5 fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. During the winter months, the trees are placed in cool rooms with a nighttime temperature of 48°F (9°C). During this period, water is somewhat restricted but the trees are not allowed to dry out completely. Plants grown in containers should be repotted every other year.
Propagation: Wollemi nobilis can be propagated by cutting and from seed. We obtained our specimen through the National Geographic Society, which is the North American source of this endangered plant. For more information and to order plants see the following URL: http://www.wollemipine.com/.
Wollemi nobilis was featured as 500th Plant of the Week April 17-23, 2009.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.