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PRESERVATION

A fossil in a pot

The Wollemi pine, from the Jurassic period, was once written off as extinct. Now you can plant your very own.

October 05, 2006

THE opening line of the planting guide is enough to make any gardener a wee bit nervous: "You are now the owner of a tree that is a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs, a miraculous time traveler and one of the greatest living fossils discovered in the twentieth century."

No pressure. Really.

The Wollemi pine was thought to be extinct until an Australian national park employee discovered a small grove in 1994 outside Sydney. Fewer than 100 adult trees have been identified in the wild, but seeds and cuttings have been collected by conservationists, and this month the National Geographic Society will begin selling the tree in its holiday catalog. An unspecified portion of sales will go toward preservation efforts.

The Wollemi pine reaches about 60 feet at maturity, with fern-like foliage that starts apple green but turns blue-green over time. The unusual trunk is dark and bumpy, as though covered in coffee beans.

Ten-inch Wollemi pines sell for $99.95 each. For National Geographic's holiday catalog, call (888) 225-5647; for Internet orders, go to www.shopng.com.

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