The sun may not be shining (actually it's bucketing down with rain here in Canowindra..) and we may be shut because of Covid-19, but look on the bright side- there is always something interesting to talk about in our Museum!
Todays blog post will look at "living fossils", two of which we are nurturing here.
The Ginkgo tree
A beautiful specimen of a mature Ginkgo
The Ginkgo biloba (commonly known as the maidenhair tree) is one of the oldest living tree species in the world. In fact, according to the experts at Kew gardens, the oldest recorded maidenhair tree is a massive 3,500 years old.
It's the sole survivor of an ancient group of trees that date back to before dinosaurs roamed the Earth – creatures that lived between 245 and 66 million years ago.
It’s so ancient, the species is known as a 'living fossil'—a category that also includes horseshoe crabs and royal ferns, among others—because it’s a remnant of a once diverse group that existed millions of years ago. Because ginkgo is such an ancient species, it retains characteristics not often seen in more modern trees.
Fossils of Ginkgo leaves have been discovered that date back more than 200 million years. They are almost identical to maidenhair tree leaves of today.
A lonely tree
This beautiful tree is a very lonely species now.
It is the only member of its genus (Ginkgo), which is the only genus in its family (Ginkgoaceae), which is the only family in its order (Ginkgoales), which is the only order in its subclass (Ginkgoidae).
The tree is also the only living connection between ferns and conifers.
The Wollemi Pine
David Noble, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife service officer, who was the first to discover the Wollemi pine. He is pictured with some of the trees grown from cuttings and seeds from the original stand. Photo courtesy Blue Mountains Gazette
Our second "living fossil" is the Wollemi Pine.
Wollemi pines (Wollemia nobilis) were thought to be extinct for two million years, until
1994 when a group of researchers were exploring the canyons of Wollemi in the Australian Blue Mountains and discovered a small group of them growing.
These trees were the last remaining plants of a species that once formed vast forests in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica at the time of the dinosaurs.
To conserve the newly discovered species, the trees were propagated and distributed to botanic gardens around the world.
The exact location of the Wollemi Pines is a closely guarded secret because of the fragile nature of their wild habitat. Only select researchers are occasionally allowed to visit the area.