Wollemia nobilis

Wollemi Pine

Family: Araucariaceae

It is an evergreen coniferous (pine) tree reaching 25–40 m tall.

It is well known that this species was (and still is) an internationally renowned discovery and has hence, become a famous plant in its own right; discovered in 1994 in remote and hard-to-access canyons in Wollemi National Park, about 150 km north-west of Sydney. The exact location is kept a close secret but it is said the tree exists in 3 canyons. 

The trees exist growing above Warm-Temperate Rainforest, probably on Narrabeen Sandstone or Shale Series-soils.  

It is a listed threatened species in the wild. 

The bark is very distinctive, dark brown, and knobbly. In a humorous sense, it bears a strong resemblance to Kellogg’s Coco Pops. 

Wollemia is a genus of conifers or pine trees. This means that no flowers are produced. 

New shoots often consist of ball-shaped cluster of growth. Leaves are described as occurring in 3-stages – on leading shoots; then juvenile-lateral shoots and then adult-lateral shoots. Leaves will vary from 1 cm long to 8 cm long and to 0.5 cm wide over these stages, linear to narrow-triangular, light and then mid-green on upper surface, paler on lower surface (glaucous); are arranged spirally on the shoot but twisted at the base to appear in two or four flattened ranks. 

Wollemia produces male and female cones on the same plant (a common trait for many pine trees); both produced at the terminals of the leaves. Male cones are to 10 cm long and about 20 mm diameter, red-brown when releasing pollen. Female cones are to 8 cm in diameter – green in colour, consisting of spike-sporophylls; maturing about 18 to 20 months after wind pollination. They disintegrate at maturity to release the seeds which are small and brown, thin and papery with a wing around the edge to aid wind-dispersal.

In the garden

Fortunately, once the species was discovered and described, it was able to be propagated readily from cuttings and tens of thousands of plants were produced for public sale (with the first plants auctioned!). 

The Wollemi Pine is extremely hardy and versatile in cultivation. Despite it being a threatened species, it is easy to grow and requires relatively low maintenance. It will adapt to a diverse range of climatic zones, thriving in full sun to semi shaded outdoor positions. They can be maintained in a pot almost indefinitely, and makes a good container plants for patios, verandas, and courtyards. Because it tolerates air conditioning, it can also be used as an indoor decorative plant. These are basic need to knows for care: when pruning the Wollemi Pine, use sterile secateurs at any time of year to retain its compact form. It can be pruned heavily with up to two thirds of the plant size removed. Pruning heavily can be done on the apical growth and the branches. The best time to prune is during the winter months.

It is yet to be seen how long plants will last in gardens in the long-term and also, how large they will get. However, they are slow growing. It pays to consider that they can grow into a large tree, so consider this when planting. 

This news story is very informative for growing this plant, from the Botanic Gardens of Sydney https://www.botanicgardens.org.au/discover-and-learn/watch-listen-read/citizen-science-helps-ancient-wollemi-pine-endure 


Plants are readily available from nurseries. Once a plant is owned, it can possible be propagated from cuttings. 

Other information

One of the World’s oldest and rare trees and was only known only through fossil records from Antarctica. For a more detailed information on the discovery refer to this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wollemia

It is unknown what the effects of fire are on this species. In 2019, fire fighters went to tremendous efforts to save the canyons from fire during the extreme 2019-2020 bushfire event. Plants are likely killed off by fire.

Wollemiafrom the Latin form of the word Wollemi, the name of the National Park in New South Wales where the trees are found.

nobilis this epithet is a tribute to David Noble, a national park ranger at the time, who discovered the first stand of Wollemi Pines on an abseiling trip in 1994.

The Wollemi pine is classified as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) Red List. It is listed as threatened at both the State and Commonwealth level with the category of critically endangered.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Wollemia nobilis profile page       https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Wollemia~nobilis 

Wikipedia profile page for Wollemia nobilis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wollemia

Australian National Herbarium profile page for Wollemia nobilis    https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/interns-2004/wollemia-nobilis.html

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.