A “Living Fossil” Tree Grows in Brooklyn
For the past 96 years, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has provided New Yorkers and visitors with not only a beautiful and restful green haven from the bustle of city life that surrounds it, but also with specialized horticultural experiences that were the first of their kind—the Japanese garden, the fragrance garden, the children’s garden and a garden designed for the visually impaired. This winter a new Botanic Garden “first” reaches back to the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. President Scott Medbury proudly shares with guests a record number of visits with plans for a new interactive sign program, new visitor center, and models for a green institution.
The Garden has added to its public display a newly acquired Wollemi pine tree, a plant that was believed to be extinct for two million years. In 1994 a small grove of Wollemi pines was discovered in Australia’s Blue Mountains, near Sydney. Since making this find, scientists and horticulturalists have been studying the Wollemi pine to learn how this ancient species was able to survive through 17 ice ages.
The Botanic Garden’s Wollemi pine is now displayed in the Steinhardt Conservatory’s Trail of Evolution, which traces the development of plant life from its origin four billion years ago to the present day. The Garden is offering fun, instructional activities for children and their families that will teach them about the Wollemi and the role of such ancient trees in the evolution of plant life.
Because fewer than 100 Wollemi pines exist in the wild, a plant-propagation and commercialization initiative has begun. Royalties from sales are dedicated to plant conservation efforts. The Garden is offering a small number of the cultivated trees for sale, so that visitors can become part of the living history of the Wollemi and other ancient endangered plants, while aiding conservation efforts.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which occupies 52 acres in the heart of Brooklyn and is home to over 10,000 types of plants, offers numerous classes, programs and events for adults and children of all ages. Planning is underway now for the 100th anniversary of this historic, urban garden in 2010, with several replications planned in Washington DC as well as other parts of the country. The Garden is proud of being the only one that includes high school interns in its Garden Apprentice Program and gives students a participatory role in laboratory work. For more information, visit the Garden’s website: www.bbg.org.