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Unique Australian trees endangered

The only known wild stand of a tree species dating to Jurassic times has been endangered by a deadly disease probably introduced by an unauthorised hiker, a government official said on Monday.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2006 11:35 IST

The only known wild stand of a tree species dating to Jurassic times has been endangered by a deadly disease probably introduced by an unauthorised hiker, a government official said on Monday.

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 unauthorised visitor, New South Wales state environmental department spokesman John Dengate said.

Despite the threat, the species is not at risk of extinction. Thousands of trees have been propagated in plantations from the wild stand and some went on sale to the public for the first time in October last year.

First Published: Jan 31, 2006 11:35 IST