A Wollemi pine, one of the oldest and rarest plants in the world, was unveiled at the UBC Botanical Garden in May 2009. Fewer than 100 adult trees of this species are known to exist in the wild in their native Australia.
The Wollemi belongs to a plant family over 200 million years old. Though long thought to be extinct, the prehistoric trees were discovered in 1994 by a hiker in a rainforest 200 kilometres from Sydney, Australia.
“Our tree is a first-generation cutting from the ‘King Billy’ tree, the largest Wollemi pine in the wild that is estimated to be over 1,000 years old,” says Douglas Justice, associate director and curator of collections for the Botanical Garden.
Dubbed “Little Billy,” the three-metre tall tree is a conifer with attractive, unusual dark green foliage, bubbly bark and multiple trunks.
The introduction of the Wollemi pine also kicked off the Botanical Garden’s new self-guided Prehistoric Plant Tour. Featuring more than 10 ancient species – from the Ginkgo biloba tree to the Chinese watershrub – the tour takes visitors back in time to see a number of fascinating plants along the path of evolution.
UBC’s Botanical Garden is the oldest university garden in Canada. It spans 44 hectares and contains more than 8,000 different plants.