A year ago at the end of May, we planted an unusual tree on the quinta ( and somewhat absurdly named it Hamish). This is the self-coppicing Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis), one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees, thought long-extinct until discovered in a canyon in Australia’s Blue Mountains in 1994. The oldest known fossil of the tree has been dated to 200 million years old. To confuse matters, Wollemi pines aren’t pines at all but members of the Araucariaceae, the same family as Monkey puzzle trees.
Hamish arrived from the Cornwall nursery last year with Spring growth already well established and hardening off, so I was slightly concerned this Spring to see no evidence of new growth starting. This remained the case right up until the end of May, then almost a year to the day of the tree’s arrival, it burst into new life.
A couple of weeks later, Hamish has a bad case of morning hair.
The tousled look comes from the fact that the Wollemi pine’s leaves grow in 4 directions. From a distance, they look flat, almost like a larger scale Christmas tree (European silver fir Abies alba), because you don’t see the leaf blades growing perpendicular to the horizontal ones. At this stage in its growth they’re much more obvious because they haven’t yet matured and firmed up into their eventual upright position.
Last year’s other new arrival, a Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) named Frederick, is also doing well and putting on new growth.