Happy 15th Birthday to the largest collection of Wollemi pines in Europe!

Monday 17th October 2022 marks 15 years since a collection of one of the world’s rarest trees was planted in Markshall Estate’s arboretum. The team celebrates the anniversary and recognises the significance of this development in arboriculture.

The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) dates from the time of the dinosaurs – more than 200 million years ago. They were thought to be extinct until September 1994, and there are now fewer than 100 mature trees in the wild.

Markshall Estate arboretum, located in Coggeshall, is home to the largest collection of Wollemi pines in Europe and one of the largest in the world. On Wednesday 17th October 2007, the first of this very special collection was planted by Professor Stephen Hopper, the then Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. There is now a grove of them in an area of the arboretum known as Gondwanaland.

Some of the Markshall team, with Moose, gather at the fifteenth birthday of the wollemia nobilis

Most Wollemi pines are grown indoors in pots, in fact the largest outdoor group before Markshall consisted of only three specimens. So, the collection found on the estate is extremely important not just aesthetically, but also as a source of information regarding the tree’s habitats, it’s preferred growing conditions, tolerances and forms.

Ian Chandler, Arboretum Manager at Markshall Estate, was there on the day they were first planted. “The extraordinary Wollemi pine dates back to the time of the dinosaurs and it was known only through fossil records until 1994. This living fossil was thought to be extinct for two million years until a small population was discovered in the Blue Mountains of Australia in 1994 by Australian canyoner David Noble. Today, the species is critically endangered and restricted to fewer than 100 trees in Wollemi National Park, eastern Australia. This native population was recently threatened by the forest fires that swept across Australia.”

Wollemi pines live for an extremely long time, some of the oldest living trees today are thought to be between 500 and 1,000 years old. It is exciting to know that the collection at Markshall Estate will be here for many future generations. It is also in keeping with the wishes of the estate’s last private owner, Thomas Phillips Price, as the estate was a gift to the nation ‘for the advancement of arboriculture, agriculture and forestry’ forever.

“At Markshall we have currently 70 – 80 Wollemi pines in Gondwanaland and the plan for the future is to have double this number growing together. This will give our visitors a truly unique experience in being able to walk through a Jurassic Forest!” says Ian Chandler.

As a charity, Markshall Estate relies on the support of its visitors to ensure that all collections across the site, including the Wollemi pines, can continue to thrive and be there for future generations to see and to enjoy.

Markshall Estate Arboretum Manager at the Wollemi pine planting in 2007
Markshall Estate Arboretum Manager at the fifteenth anniversary of their planting