Wollemi Pine - Jurassic Period
The famed 'dinosaur tree' was thought to be extinct for over 100 million years, until a chance find in Wollemi National Park near Sydney, New South Wales in 1994. Dr Cochran says the Wollemi pine is “one of the oldest and rarest plants on earth and also a member of the ‘dinosaur tree’ family Araucariaceae, dating back 200 million years to the early Jurassic Period.”
The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) used to cover Australia. It was found the trees could essentially be ‘cloned’ to eradicate their extinction, with Wollemi pine seedlings now available for sale around the world.
Dr Cochran says that “royalties from the sale of Wollemi Pines support the conservation of this species as well as other rare and endangered plants.”
Now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, the Wollemi pines at Wollemi National Park can grow up to 39 metres high in the wild (and up to 50 cm in a potted plant in your backyard) – although finding the pine trees themselves may be tricky.
The exact location of the 200 or so dinosaur trees is not disclosed to the public to protect them from human interaction and extinction.
Where to find them: These days, the prehistoric plants can only be found in The Wollemi National Park in the northern Blue Mountains, or at Dr Cochran’s Inala Jurassic Garden on Bruny Island in Tasmania.
Dutchman’s Pipe – Cretaceous Period
Evolving from the first flowering plants roughly 125 million years ago, the Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia elegans) is a weed that managed to survive the asteroid that saw the extiniction of the dinosaurs and is still present today, with more than 500 different species of the plant roaming the Earth.
A dangerous and deciduous climbing vine named for its likeness to – you guessed it – a dutchman’s pipe, the toxic plant with twisting stems, curved leaves, and red-tinged dropping flowers is a prehistoric plant, or weed, that has been around since the Cretaceous Period - roughly 65 to 142 million years ago.
Where to find them: These days, it is more frequently found as an environmental weed in Queensland and northern New South Wales. As a toxic vine, the Dutchman’s Pipe is listed as a restricted invasive plant by Biosecurity Queensland, as it is poisonous to humans, livestock, and butterflies and ‘cannot be given away, sold, or released into the environment.’
Looks like the T-Rex had a fierce competitor for the most ferocious predator.
Horsetail weed - Carboniferous Period
Older than the dinosaurs and said to originate in the Carboniferous Period over 350 million years ago, Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) was a dominant fossil during the dinosaur age.
The Horsetail is a green weed growing from the ground in a bottle-brush shape, and used to grow to the size of a pine tree. It may have been part of the dinosaur diet, although the paleontology community argues that they may have worn down the teeth of any herbivore that got its chompers around its rough exterior.
Where to find them: These days, while listed as a problematic weed that can be toxic to livestock and other flora and fauna in New South Wales, it is harvested for medicinal use, as it contains silica, commonly used for mineral depletion in areas including hair, skin, nails, bone health and pain reduction.