UK grower hits Wollemi jackpot

Kernock Park Plants wins UK rights to 'botanic find of the century'

Kernock Park Plants has gained the exclusive UK licence for the “botanic find of the century”, Wollemi pine, auctioned for £2,000 each in Australia last weekend. German young plant supplier and breeder Kientzler won the contract from Australian authorities to introduce the tree to Europe and has chosen the eight-country Proven Winners network to sell the tree, with Cornwall-based Kernock Park Plants having the UK rights. Managing director Bruce Hartnett said he had to keep the deal a secret until after the auction. He added: “I’m really enthused. Garden centre buyers are really, really excited. It’s good for our prestige and it’s one of the most exciting products I’ve dealt with. We weren’t going to say no to it.” Kientzler product developer Garry Gruber said: “It is the botanic find of the last century. We have been surprised how adaptable it has proven to be in trials.” He said 50cm-tall specimens of the tree, costing around £70, will be available in “tens of thousands” in Europe in 14cm pots from April. It is already a craze in Australia and will be suitable as a garden or Christmas tree, or as a container, patio or indoor plant in the UK, Gruber added. But Notcutts Nurseries said the tree would grow too tall for gardens — it can reach 50m in height. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, arboretum head Tony Kirkham said German propagators have had a 95 per cent success rate from cuttings. The Australian government and local grower Birkdale Nurseries have an agreement to commercially exploit the tree to raise money to safeguard its habitats. One euro from each tree sold will go to conservation, as well as all £487,000 of the auction money. Kirkham said the Wollemi was the most exciting thing to happen in his field for years. Australian botanists have found another form of Wollemi that stays prostrate and could make good ground cover. The pine lay undiscovered and was thought to have been extinct for thousands of years before Australian park ranger David Noble found the remaining 100 wild specimens in 1994.

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