Chch gets NZ's first dinosaur plant

Botanic Gardens gets NZ's first Wollemi pine

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 08:22 31/01/2013
Wollemi pine
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
NEW HOME: Nurseryman Greg Kitson plants a rare Wollemi pine in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, helped by Karina Given, the widow of former curator David Given.

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A rare tree of a type once snacked on by dinosaurs has been planted in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to celebrate the gardens' 150th anniversary.

The Wollemi pine, a Jurassic-era species, was discovered in New South Wales in 1994. Fewer than 100 mature trees grow in the wild.

It is classified as critically endangered. Like its closest relative, the kauri, it belongs to the ancient Araucariaceae family of coniferous trees that flourished in the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said it was a coup for the gardens to have such a rare specimen.

Seedlings cannot be imported because of fears they could spread diseases.

The tree in the gardens was grown by tissue culture at the Ambrosia Nursery, near Christchurch, under licence after the Environmental Protection Authority and iwi approved it.

It is the first Wollemi pine planted in New Zealand.

The most recent fossil specimen was a million years old, gardens curator John Clemens said. "Scientists thought we would never see anything like this, and wham, it steps out of the forest. It's amazing," he said.

The seedling is protected by a cage to stop thieves and people taking cuttings.

Gardens curator the late David Given had worked for many years to bring a Wollemi pine to the city. His widow, Karina Given, said: "Just a month before he died, we went to see the Wollemi pine in Sydney. He pushed really hard to get the pine here."

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- The Press

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