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This auction block aims to save ancient trees

Saplings of a giant tree that was a snack for dinosaurs and was believed to also be extinct until a chance discovery in Australia will be offered for sale to the public next month for the first time.
WOLLEMI PINE
The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia, showed off this cutting from a Wollemi pine, a Jurassic-era tree once thought to be extinct.Jamie Plaza / AP/Royal Botanic Gardens
/ Source: Reuters

Saplings of a giant tree that was a snack for dinosaurs and was believed to also be extinct until a chance discovery in Australia will soon be offered for sale to the public for the first time.

Less than 300 of the Wollemi pines — which can grow to at least 130-feet tall and live for 1,000 years — will be offered for sale in October through auction house Sotheby’s individually and in lots.

“Although the auction will be in Sydney, we expect telephone bidding from around the world,” a spokeswoman for London’s Kew Gardens, which put its sample on display in May, told Reuters.

“The idea is to conserve the tree by selling it commercially around the world,” she said, adding that individual samples were expected to fetch around $1,500 with collections of cuttings of the original discovery priced at up to $38,000.

Wollemi pines were only known from fossil records dating back 90 million years until a chance discovery in 1994 of a living cluster in the Greater Blue Mountains, 125 miles west of Sydney, by wildlife officer David Noble.

To this day, the exact location is a closely guarded secret to protect the 100 trees — relatives of the modern day Monkey Puzzle — from unwanted human interference.

The tall, slender conifer has dark brown, bubbly bark and long, dark green leaves and is a member of the Araucariaceae family.

The Kew Gardens spokeswoman said the so-called Collectors Edition release of trees, which are about 10-feet tall grown from cuttings of the originals, would be followed by sales next year of smaller propagated saplings.