Wollemi pines: time travellers from a different Australia
Imagine if more than a quarter of a century ago, bushwalker David Noble had not stumbled across the stand of Wollemi pines and they had remained undiscovered.
The trees survive in three stands in just one remote canyon in a massive wilderness to Sydney’s north-west. Until they were found, they were a species clinging to the edge of the precipice of extinction – just one disaster away from vanishing.
A quarter of a century for a species with a lineage going back to the age of dinosaurs is not even a fraction of a millionth of a blip.
And given the monumental effort that has gone into saving this desperately endangered wild population it is highly likely that had they not been found in 1994, then the past few months would have seen them wiped out without anyone ever knowing they still existed. The miracle of their discovery has become the miracle that has saved them – for now.
I remember the day in a Sydney newsroom almost 20 years ago when an editor at the paper where I worked at the time heard that I was writing a book about the Wollemi pines. Even though the trees’ discovery in 1994 made news on front pages around the world, my boss walked over to my desk, looked me in the eye and said “no one is going to read a fucking book about a tree”.
Implicit in what he said was that no one cared about Wollemi pines enough to read a book about them.
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