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Tasmanian botanists take new approach to save the 'oldest plant'

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 01:24

Tasmanian botanists are taking a new approach to saving what is believed to be the world's oldest living plant. By grafting King's Holly onto similar species of plant that has a stronger root base, the scientists hope to cultivate the plant before disease and bushfires wipe out the ancient shrub. Ben Gruber reports.

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STORY: Botanists in Australia are in a race against time to save what is considered to be the world's oldest living plant species - the King's Holly. Only one surviving cluster of the plant, which is more then 43,000 years old, still exists in the wild and a combination of bushfires a root rot are on the verge of wiping it out. Natalie Tapson says that botanists have been attempting save the species from extinction for the past 20 years. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA SCHOOL OF PLANT SCIENCE, NATALIE TAPSON SAYING: "We collected King's Holly first in the mid-90s from its location in the wild and started propagating it with the aim of getting a conservation collection of 50 plants." But Tapson and fellow botanist Greg Jordan say traditional cultivation efforts have been largely unsuccessful. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR GREG JORDAN SAYING: "The King's Holly doesn't do sex and that's because its got three sets of chromosomes instead of two." (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA SCHOOL OF PLANT SCIENCE, NATALIE TAPSON SAYING: "It doesn't like root disturbance so every time we pot it on we're losing plants unfortunately." Now the botanists are attempting a new approach, grafting Kings Holly plants on to the roots of a similar plant species. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA SCHOOL OF PLANT SCIENCE, NATALIE TAPSON SAYING: "By putting it onto a different root stock it's hoped that when you plant it out or transfer it you're not going to have that loss because the root stock is stronger." Tapson hopes the new approach is successful, if not she says, the old King Holly could be gone forever.

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Tasmanian botanists take new approach to save the 'oldest plant'

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 01:24