Lazarus Taxon and Identification By Cage
There are so many intricacies to tree identification– Are the leaves simple or compound? Do they have hair on them? Are they waxy in texture? Are the leaves alternating or opposite of each other? What are the twigs’ terminal or lateral buds like? How is the bark textured? What color are the flowers? When do said flowers bloom? Is there any evidence of nuts on the ground? What about fruit?
When I was in the Norfolk Botanical Gardens a week ago, I was able to recognize a tree using a different method entirely. I identified it based on the cage around it.
Walking in the rain near the observatory tower, I noticed familiar black bars surrounding a small tree.
“Is that a Wollemi Pine?!?!” I exclaimed and scurried closer. A little sign in front of the tree confirmed it was true.
I first encountered the Wollemi Pine at the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam last November. It was particularly intriguing because I was on a Lazarus Taxon kick. “Lazarus Taxon” is an official term for my “I See Extinct Things” posts. It refers to species that disappeared from the fossil record, were believed to be extinct and were suddenly discovered alive. The term’s etymology is Biblical– Lazarus was the man Jesus brought back from the dead.
The Wollemi Pine is a textbook 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 growing in Australia.
I suppose being one of the oldest and rarest tree species in the world does warrant a little extra protection. At least two cities agree. Amsterdam and Norfolk, separated by an ocean, both enclosed their Wollemi Pines in black fencing.
By doing so, they introduced a new characteristic, a new trait, to the tree. Another way to recognize it.
Wollemi Pine in Amsterdam
Wollemi Pine in Norfolk, Virginia