September 12, 2005

A grounded captive

Tasmania’s lone Wollemi Pine, grounded in its sturdy cage at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden, has grown in stature — and value — since arriving here a few years ago.

More than 10 years after they were discovered in a national park west of Sydney, the first Wollemi Pines will go on sale to the public at the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

On October 23, auction house Sotheby’s will sell 292 “first generation” trees, propagated from cuttings of dinosaur-age conifers that, until 1994, were known only through fossils.

There will be 148 lots ranging from single trees to an avenues of 20. Prices will start at $1,500 for a single tree and climb to $15,000 for a grove. “They almost have a Jurassic look about them,” said Barbara McGeoch, of Wollemi Pine International.

The location of the wild pines is a closely-guarded secret. Conservationists hope commercialising the pines will protect them from extinction, vandalism, theft and introduced diseases.


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