Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines

Last remaining 200 Prehistoric Wollemi Pines saved from extinction

Firefighters winched their way from helicopters to the forest floor. The exact location of the groves is a carefully guarded secret.New South Wales Government

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

The bark of Wollemia nobilis is covered in dark brown spongy nodules. Only 200 of the trees grow in their natural habitat.New South Wales Government

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

It took days for the heavy smoke to clear and reveal whether the trees had been saved. New South Wales Government

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994. The story continues here at NPR: