A very special Tasmanian plant… for several reasons –
- arguably the oldest living plant in the world, believed to be at least 43,000 years old (possibly up to 135,000 years old); ref http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-09/botanists-try-to-save-the-worlds-oldest-living-plant/5659970
- it is a triploid (has 3 sets of chromosomes) so is sterile and can only reproduce vegetatively; it does not produce fruit or seeds
- only one colony is known to exist, in a secret location in south western Tasmania
L. tasmanica is a member of the Proteaceae family. It was named for Deny King who first found the plant in 1934, and collected the type material in 1965. In 1969 eminent Tasmanian botanist Winifred Curtis confirmed it as a new undescribed species. “Holly” because of the shape of the leaves.
Although I searched, I did -not- find this plant on Maatsuyker Island. (I had been hopeful because I was not far from the south western area of Tasmania). I became aware of this amazing species during a visit to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens gift shop quite a few years ago when I bought a note card with an intriguing photo of a beautiful red-flowered Grevillea-like plant. I am familiar with several Lomatia species here in the Blue Mountains, but I had never heard of King’s Holly before. “By purchasing these cards you are helping to support the work of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens Rare & Threatened Plant Program”. More information and lovely photos can be found at their website – http://gardens.rtbg.tas.gov.au/lomatia-tasmanica/
RTBG staff and other scientific organisations have worked hard to propagate the plant in order to maintain a viable ex-situ collection of L. tasmanica, but the task has presented many challenges. Recently there was a report of success in propagating this special treasure – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-08/growing-trend-towards-tasmanian-native-plants/8424804. This is very good news, as the single secret colony is threatened by both disease (Phytophthora cinnamomi root rot) and increased incidence of fire.