Disease threatens ancient Australian trees

ancient australian treesScientists said it was ‘like finding a small dinosaur’. The tree is known from its fossils in ‘dinosaur age’ rock, the Wollemi pine, often described as a living fossil, was thought to be extinct until 1994, when a park ranger stumbled upon a stand of fewer than 100 trees in a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park, 120 miles west of Sydney.

But the stand has been endangered by a fungus-like disease, Phytophthora cinnamomi, that was detected in two trees in November last year and was almost certainly introduced by an unauthorized visitor, New South Wales state environmental department spokesman John Dengate said.

"It is an endangering factor," Dengate said. "Nobody can be sure at this stage how big a threat it poses, but we're treating it very, very seriously."

Dengate said the department was hopeful that treatment would wipe out the threat to the stand.

"We understand that people are really keen to see the trees in their natural environment, but there are only a few dozen left and they are extremely vulnerable to infections so we're asking people to stay away," he added.

Source: Associated Press.