College pine’s tree-mendous

Wiltshire Times: Carl Gill, right, with head gardener Stan Rawlings, left, and gardener Tony Pratt with the rare pine tree Carl Gill, right, with head gardener Stan Rawlings, left, and gardener Tony Pratt with the rare pine tree

One of the world’s oldest and rarest pines – there are only 100 in existence worldwide – is flourishing and producing cones for the first time at Wiltshire College’s Lackham Campus.

The wollemia nobilis pine was donated to Wiltshire College in 2008 by Kernock Park Plants and staff have been monitoring its development.

Carl Gill, head of horticulture, said: “We are thrilled the tree has produced cones this year because we have not seen a specimen do this before.

“It is a notable horticultural occurrence and on a specimen so young – if the seeds are viable we may try and get some to germinate.”

The ancient pine species was thought to have been extinct for two million years with the only known examples being fossils from about 175 million years ago.

However, a few were discovered in a rainforest gorge in the Blue Mountains of Australia in 1994.

The pine was named after the founder, David Noble, a field officer of the Wollemi National Park, in the Blue Mountains.

“It’s great to see, especially as it informs the students that species are still being discovered,”said Mr Gill.

The plant can survive in temperatures as low as -12 degrees centigrade, up to 45 degrees centigrade, but it does not like its root to be wet for long periods of time.

It is protected from the wildlife by a fence but is low maintenance. Staff at the college water the tree and cut the grass around it.

“The conditions at Lackham obviously suit it very well,” said Mr Gill.

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