21 January 2007 11:49 AMTasmania's Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii), is very slow growing - the oldest living trees are of the order of 3,000 years old. Huon Pine pollen occurs in Victorian lake sediments 150,000 years old, indicating that the pines have been around since Australia was part of Gondwana.
One particular Huon Pine occurrence which recently received international attention is the small forest patch high on the slopes of Mt Read, near Rosebery, Tasmania. Here, beside the small glacial Lake Johnston, are several hundred trees which share an extraordinary legacy. All are male and all are genetically identical, forming a clone. No variation in DNA has been found between the trees. Even more astounding was the discovery that genetically identical pollen was present in the bottom sediments of Lake Johnston, carbon-dated at 10,500 years. There are no other Huon Pines within 20 km of Mt Read, and no female trees anywhere in the area.
Frond of Mt Read Huon Pine from potted specimen grown from a cutting
Photo: J & R Coghlan
Scientists conclude that a male tree established itself at Lake Johnston at least 10,500 years ago and has been propagating itself vegetatively ever since, so that the identical genes survive to this day. Thus, while the oldest individual tree or stem on the site now may be one to two thousand years old, the organism itself has been living there continuously for at least 10,000 years!
The above is summarised from Dr. Keith Corbett's article "The Mount Read Huon Pine - a very special and very old tree". See the full article on the Australian Plants Society (Tasmania) web site.
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