Pine and Lime (Williamia nobilis) was discovered by a group of hikers in 1994. (Image credit: Dave Watts/Getty Images)

In 1994, hikers discovered a group of strange trees growing in a valley in Wollemi National Park, about 60 miles (100 km) west of Sydney, Australia. One hiker notified a Park Service naturalist, who then showed leaf samples to the botanist. It was eventually determined that they represented an ancient species that had essentially been frozen in time since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Called a “living fossil” by some, the Willemme pine (Williamia nobilis) is almost identical to preserved remains dating back to the Paleolithic Cretaceous period (145 million to 66 million years ago). There are now only 60 of these trees left in the wild, and these stubborn survivors are threatened by forest fires in the region. It was believed that it became extinct about 2 million years ago.

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