I See Extinct Things… in Amsterdam!

December 3, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

Thanks to the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens, I got to view more species that were once thought to be extinct.

Dawn Redwood (aka Water Fir)

In 1941, a Japanese paleo-botanist found fossil specimens that were similar both to Sequoias and Bald Cypresses, but had opposite leaves instead of the expected alternating leaves. This prompted the creation of a new genus, Metasequoia. Since the last appearance of trees with those properties was a whooping 1.5 million years ago, they were assumed extinct. But, three years later, a strand of unknown trees surfaced in China. Lo and behold, they were Metasequoias.

Water fir/Dawn Redwood in Amsterdam Botanical Gardens

Today the original forest still houses 5000 of the “living fossil”. In addition, the tree is planted widely. The tree in the Botanical Gardens was planted from the first seeds to arrive in Amsterdam in 1947. It is a source of national pride in China and marketed as an ornamental in the U.S.

The plantings that intrigue me the most, however, are in my new home state, North Carolina. Hidden away in the Sauraton Mountains, a Dawn Redwood preserve is in the works. In 2007, they had over 300 Dawn Redwoods flourishing on the site, some as tall as 50 feet. The Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwood Preserve hopes to open to the public in 2035 where visitors can experience what a metasequoia forest looked like 50-100 million years ago.

I think I will pencil in Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwood Preserve as my birthday hike in 2035. I’ll be turning 60. Anyone else in?

Wollemi Pine

Like the Coelacanths, we encountered plenty of fossils of this tree. In 1994, a National Park and Wildlife Services officer in Australia found some peculiar trees. Upon investigation, they turned out to be trees we saw no trace of for 2 million years.

With less than 100 adult trees existing in the wild and fossils dating back to 90 million years ago, the Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest AND rarest trees.

Wollemi Pine in Amsterdam Botanical Gardens

It is considered Critically Endangered, but like the Dawn Redwood, it’s being planted extensively and can be purchased to grow in the U.S. In fact, if you get your orders in by December 15th, you can have your own Wollemi Pine by Christmas time!

More pictures of the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens can be found on my Flickr site.

Entry filed under: Amsterdam, Dawn Redwood, Travel, Wollemi Pine.

Manna Ash and the Washington Monument links for 2008-12-03

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Lazarus Taxon and Identification By Cage « TGAW  |  May 12, 2009 at 6:00 am

    […] example of a Lazarus Taxon. Although fossils of the tree date back 90 million years, for the last 2 million years there wasn’t a single trace of the tree. There was every reason to believe it was extinct. And then in 1994, some were found […]


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