The Mysterious Caged Tree

by Lucy Hagger

2013-04-10 12.44.51

Yesterday was a lovely day so I thought I’d go to Kew Garden with my mum. I’ve been once before but the weather was a bit grim so it was nice to go back with some good weather.

We had a good potter around and then my mum pointed out something a bit odd. It was a tree caged in iron bars. Looked a bit odd so we wandered over to see why this tree was locked up behind bars.

Turns out the tree is a Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) and was considered extinct for 2 million years. There are a lot of fossils of this tree and it was thought that there were no living specimens until 1994 when it was discovered in Australia.

Living trees were found in a deep rainforest gorge in the Blue Mountains in west Sydney. The basically unexplored gorge contained these trees and now about 100 mature Wollemi pines exist there. 

Obviously this finding made the trees very collectable and at risk of over harvesting and extinction. To help to prevent this, researchers at Kew have helped to conserve this species by running a propagation programme. Lots of these trees are being grown and can now be bought in the Kew shop.

I found this a bit odd.. if the trees can be bought in the shop and all over the place, why is this tree still locked up?

We never found the answer to this question. My guess is that it may be an early specimen that they are trying to maintain so that specimens can be grown from its seeds. The trees are likely still relatively expensive so it is also likely to prevent people sneaking into Kew and chopping the poor thing down.