Botanic Gardens  |  10 Jul 2020

Rare and endangered pine trees are growing in numbers inside the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Six Wollemi pines have just been planted in an avenue near the Visitor Centre in the Gardens.

They join another specimen of the tree growing near the children’s playground which in 2013 was the first wollemi planted in New Zealand.

Historically one of the world’s oldest tree species, wollemi pines were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth but presumed extinct until they were discovered by a park ranger in 1994 in the Wollemi National Park near Sydney.

Fewer than 100 mature trees are known in the wild and their native habitat was preserved by firefighters during last summer’s Australian bush fires.

They are now being grown in botanic gardens around the world to ensure their survival in case their native habitat is destroyed, or pests or diseases cause damage.

The discovery of living examples of Wollemia nobilis was one of the most remarkable conifer discoveries of the 20th century, Botanic Gardens Director Wolfgang Bopp says.

“These trees are living relics with links to the past and they are closely related to the New Zealand native kauri. It is very fitting that we celebrate them here with an avenue of trees that will be enjoyed by many generations of visitors. We have chosen a high profile area to give them more prominence.

“It’s also a fitting location because there’s an Araucaria nearby, an evergreen conifer which is another ancient tree and also considered a close relative of the Wollemi. We also have the palm collection in that area which is full of interesting shapes and forms.

“The Wollemi will never get big enough to block the view through to the conservatories and the intention is that they will provide a beautiful frame for the angular buildings.”

Another group of Wollemi pines will be planted at a later stage in Christchurch Botanic Gardens’ developing Gondwana garden.

The name of the trees is taken from the national park they were found in, and nobilis meaning noble and excellent. It's also a nod to the park ranger who discovered the trees, David Noble.