Wollemia nobilis confessions

childersJanuary 12, 2007

Hi Folks,

At Frank's suggestion it's time to tell "the rest of the story" regarding the Wollemia nobilis.

Firstly my name is bruce and I'm an Aussie who lives in San Diego and has a couple of irrigation farms in Childers, Queensland.

Sorry this may be a bit long winded...........

I basically grow cycads and became interested in Wollemias when my good friend Ken Hill (Sydney Botanic Gardens & Wollemia describer) was staying with us in the 90's on the way to a cycad conference started talking about the Wollemia, when we were next in Sydney in his office he showed us plant parts, seed cones etc. In early 2000 we contacted Birkdale Nursery regarding possible importations into the USA and over the next 5 years never received a reply from them.

When the plants were released for sale in Australia in April, 2006 I seriously thought about importing some so on a trip over in August I applied to the Australian Dept of Hertitage and Environment for Export permits and was granted a six month permit to export Wollemia nobilis anywhere in the world.

I imported 50 plants to the USA in August and destributed them mainly to Botanical Gardens, a couple were taken to trade shows and a small number were sold.

A donation of four plants was made to Quail Gardens in Encinitas and that is when the fun started. unknown to us and EVERYONE ELSE in the horticulture industry was the fact that Birkdale Nursery had Trademarked the name "WOLLEMI" on 09/26/2006 in the USA and were threatening to sue both myself and Quail Gardens for displaying Wollemia nobilis as "wollemi pines" UNBELEIVEABLE that a published common name of a plant species could be trademarked but they did.

On October 9th, 2006 we received a 42 page lawsuit from Birkdale Nursery claiming $1,000,000 in damages for trademark violations and importing a trademarked commodity (even though I had export permits from the Australian Government) It now appears that the lawsuit was a scare tactic as it has yet to be filed in any US Court.

The National Geographic was extremely upset as that thought they had exclusive rights to the plant in the USA, Sure that have the rights to the plants from Birkdale but that does not stop anyone else from buying the plants from retail nurseries in Australia and importing them as I did.

The plants that National Geographic were exported to Canada in 4" pots, where they were held and then re-exported to the USA. I am still trying to fathom out why they did it this way and I haven't come up with any logical reason, it just means triple handling the plants.

The plants that NG is selling appear to be as a generalization pretty ordinary quality and size. the NG wesite stated that the plants would be 10" at the time of shipment and the WI wesite says they will be 10-14" in size. The smallest plant I have seen from them is 3" tall with most in the 5-6" size.

Evidently there have been numerous complaints to National Geographic, Wollemi International and some people have even lodged complats with the FTC regarding "false and misleading advertising" and Mail Fraud as the substandard plant size.

This is just the short version, I'm actually writing a manifesto with most of the details.

If anyone would like to email me my direct email is cycadcenter@msn.com

A lot more information with some pretty scathing complaints can be found on the "wollemia" Group on YAHOO

Thanks, Its been an interesting couple of months to say the least.


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I have one a fantastic prehistoric conifer yes it should
do well in the wetter parts of CA

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 5:43AM
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All conifer species are prehistoric.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 3:22PM
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That's insane, rights to a whole plant species and trademarks on common plant names. People are going way too far with this legal stuff. I hope someone will come to their senses soon and realize that it's crazy to trademark plants and to have exclusive rights to them.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 9:12PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

RE: it's crazy to trademark plants and to have exclusive rights to them

technically a plant cannot be 'trademarked' a trademark is given to a unique word, phrase, or symbol. But I agree, it should not be given to a word that is part of a plant's correct botanical name, or a very obvious derivation of it as is the case here.

There is such a thing as a plant patent, but obviously that was not available to this company and thats probably why they sought a trademark - just to make it difficult for other people to sell the plant.

note that it wasnt the sale of the plant that got the original poster in trouble, just selling the plant as a "wollemi pine"

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 7:18AM
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TonyfromOz(z10 NSW Aust)

I believe the name was in use as a common name well before it was trademarked and suspect it may not be legally enforceable. But just the threat of legal action is often enough.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 12:49AM
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greyneedle(z6b NJ)

You can't trademark common words or expressions, including scientific terms and you can lose trademarks for a variety of reasons, the most common one being that it becomes uninforceable when the trademarked word becomes universally generalized (think "Frisbee" or "Kleenex").

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 1:10AM
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kim_dirtdigger(IN 5b)

Thought I'd share a pic of the Wollemia nobilis I received from NG, and pic of the little booklet that came with it, showing "TM" after name "Wollemi". Rather sorry now that I contributed to the greed of these individuals, but I do love the little guy.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 8:09AM
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The name 'wollemi' was in widespread use many years (the Wollemi National Park was designated in 1979) before they published that booklet. The TM claim is therefore illegitimate, and can be ignored.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 12:35PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

I know they are not related, but am I the only one who thinks these look like cephalotaxus?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 7:00PM
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"am I the only one who thinks these look like cephalotaxus?"

I compared it with Cephalotaxus fortunei not so long ago, can't remember if it was this forum or another one


    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 8:52PM
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Found it . . . 16th post down on this thread

Here is a link that might be useful: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/conif/msg1212231512048.html

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 9:03PM
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Hi there,

Thanks for the support everyone has shown.

Here is the letter which WollemiNorthAmerica sent to Quail Botanical Gardens.

I certainly hope that everyone with a Wollemia nobilis has it labeled correctly our you too may get sued by Josh.

Totally unbelievable behavior if you ask me.

TO: Ms. Pat Hammer Quail Botanic Garden

FROM: Josh Schneider  President, Wollemi Pine North America

RE: Display of Wollemia nobilis

Dear Pat,

Further to our conversation this morning regarding the presentation of the Wollemia nobilis to you from Bruce Ironmonger I wanted to clarify the position of Wollemi Pine North America and my partners in the Australian Governments of New South Wales, Queensland and the Royal Botanic Gardens about the illegal use of our Trademark. The word WOLLEMI is a trademark that Mr. Ironmonger has no standing to use. He has violated the law by bringing plants in and distributing them under our trademark.
In order to insulate Quail Botanic Gardens from being named in the suit, I need for you to cease use of the Wollemi mark and remove from display the trees you have pending the resolution of the suit with Mr. Ironmonger. We realize that you did not know that Mr. Ironmonger didnÂt have any rights to use the trademark or sell the trees under the WOLLEMIÂname.

If you can also please send me a copy of the press release that you have been sending out, I will edit it and make sure that it doesnÂt put you in any jeopardy legally. Also we need to get the signage that you are using and make certain that the Trademark is depicted correctly. On any display, the tree needs to be referred to as WOLLEMIÂ Pine Tree with the word WOLLEMI being used with all caps and the TM after the word Wollemi. Please refer all inquiries and questions to the website at www.wollemipine.com or to me personally at the address below.

Wollemi Pine North America and I personally have every desire to support your educational mission at Quail. I am happy to set up a meeting where we can plan a proper and sanctioned roll out of the tree and potentially a fundraiser with the help of the Australian Embassy and some of their support staff.

Please let me know what you can do to help fix this.

Best regards,


Josh Schneider
Wollemi Pine North America
4309 Diegos Ct
Fallbrook, CA 92028
Ph 760-695-1398
Fax 760-695-1399
Mobile 760-802-0542

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 11:19PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

That's hillarious. Just like what I said previously, they cannot "own" the plant so they just want to scare people into letting them be the only people to exploit it commercially.

The letter is a sad scare tactic. I'd advise you to disregard it. How much money would 'wollemi pine north america' make from suing Quail botanical gardens. Nothing that's what. Even if they had a valid legal argument. I'm guessing quail botanic gardens is not the proverbial deep pocket that lawyers look for.

It makes me want to propagate the plant.....anyone know anything about growing WOLLEMI pines? Let's all do it. Isnt there a 'dilution' theory in trademark law?

Josh, go ahead and email me if you want to send me a scary letter. And kiss my rear right in the middle.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2007 at 11:44PM
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They don't have any legal argument at all. As I've already mentioned, the word Wollemi has been in the public domain since at least 1979 with the designation of the Wollemi National Park. It is no different to someone trying to trademark e.g. the word 'California'.

I'd suggest getting on to the press about it . . . an interesting news article, a nice bit of advertising for Quail BG, and if/when needed, backing from the newspaper's lawyers (who will be rather more competent than anyone wollemipine.com can afford!).


    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 4:36AM
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I think that Josh and the National Geographic's will turn out to Wollemi International worst nightmare.

And yes, now that the Horticulture press in both Australia and the USA have heard wind of the Trademark issue they have asked me for copies of correspondence and the lawsuit.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 1:35PM
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OUTSTANDING!!! Keep us posted. BTW --- I'm with "tcharles", let grow the heck out of that sucker!!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 2:15PM
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Newly branching Wollemi

Three wollemias in California

Wollemis at our farm in Australia

wollemias at our farm in Australia

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 3:37PM
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eukaryote(Kansas City, MO z6)

I think it's really disgusting how they've taken a tree whose existence is both fascinating and unexpected and turned it into a trademarked commodity. I used to be on the mailing list for wollemipine.com, but I kinda got bored with all the constant hype. Now I'm totally disenchanted with the whole thing. I'd still like to grow one though, but not if a penny goes to these people.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 5:28PM
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Hi Bruce,

Any chance you will bring more in to California? If so, can I buy one from you?


    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 5:36PM
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fhollingshead(17 CA)


Thanks for sharing your Wollemia trials and travails; I was sure the group would be interested and supportive. As Pineresin and, I think, your own legal counsel have suggested, one cannot "trademark" a place name and thus the TM has been granted in error. I think I saw somewhere that the TM could be challenged for a minimal filing fee($300?). I for one would be happy to kick in few bucks towards that end. These guys are horticultural hijackers and need to be put in their place.

Again, even if you aren't interested in what my Southern grandma would call kicking a skunk there's no reason you couldn't import and sell "Wollemia nobilis" or whatever as long as you eschewed the "WOLLEMI" term in your advert except when used as a place name. As goted and others have pointed out, we'd all be eager for bigger and better plants at more reasonable prices.

Do it!



    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 12:03PM
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Check out a few gardens in CA and find out if the
are any wollemi pines planted out.Here in Britain
its now available at £97.00.Its been planted in a
few gardens across the country.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 1:01PM
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From http://www.wollemipine.com/USA_link.php :
What climate is best suited to the Wollemi Pine?
In Australia the Wollemi Pine has grown well in a range of temperatures and humidity levels, from 23°F to 113°F (5°C to 45°C) and trials in North America and Japan have indicated that it can survive temperatures as cold as 10°F (12°C). The Wollemi Pine can be grown outdoors in USDA Zone 7 - 11.

I think that is "information" is misleading and designed to increase selling.
-12°C is zone 8 not 7. Even in zone 8, temperature can fall well below -12°C.
Also, nothing about the length of the cold period.

Here too, some wrong information...


As usual UK is much more expensive than US.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 2:39PM
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Talk about corny. They've even expected 'naming' to be written as, "Pine Tree." How Funny! It's not a Pine of course.

Josh...... seems like some 'kid' no doubt.

Later, and "Childers" thanks for bringing this to the attention of us all.

I'm angry.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 11:48AM
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Regardless of any legalities real or imagined, my first concern would be that Mr. Schneider in Fallbrook is only minutes away from Quail Gardens in Encinitas. I'm afraid that if I were Quail, I'd be finding a very, very secure place to keep my little treasures. Mr. Schneider's pruning, shovelling or outright theft skills may very well exceed his written bullying skills.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 3:43PM
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pinetree30(Sierra Westside)

Schneider? Schneider? Did you say Schneider? If so, don't do it again. I trademarked that combination of letters several years ago for my brand of rat poison, and if anybody uses it without the TM I am going to sue him.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 10:30PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

I just found out that the word "wollemi" has been trademarked, therefore I am going to propose to give the tree a new "popular" name - Araucaria Downunder or Lil' Aussie. How about that?

And by the way, can someone trademark Wollemia Nobilis as well? How about if I trademark the name JOHN(TM)? Also I may want to trademark the word CAT(TM) so everyone will be writing about cats with a TM and then once everyone begins trademarking everything our language will look like this:

"JohnTM wentTM forTM aTM walkTM. HeTM sawTM aTM catTM."

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 2:12PM
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Sorry Neonrider, but I've just trademarked the lettering "TM". You must add (TM) after every citation of the lettering TM.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 4:29PM
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how about the name "Jurassic Pine" ?

or how about
"Stegosaurus Pine"?

think of the marketing possibilities!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2007 at 4:53PM
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I was really taken by Wollemia when I saw pictures of it few years ago. Even had it as a screen saver for a long time. I was looking forward to time when one could buy it and become a proud owner of this miracle plant. I have heard it would be released, however, I have yet to see one in Toronto. This fiasco with NG and trademarking are hard to understand and a blemish on all who have actively participated in this farce. Unfortunately, there have been instances of trademarking genetic codes and various DNA's and there are individuals who are attempting to control access to genetic material. If it continues unabated we will be paying to use it. In fact there are already organizations who charge for the use of their genetic material.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 12:38PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

My zone is 8A (South Carolina Midlands, Orangeburg County). I bought Wollemi from NG last winter and kept it in a pot and kept moving it from shade to a sun and it got a bit yellowish. Then this autumn I planted it into the ground giving it some space and some shade, actually it's mostly shade, but it may get some afternoon sun. It got slightly more yellowish green and some of it's tips became yellow and some leaves have brown spots. Our winters get about -1C to +16C with occasional night time or morning temperatures down to -5C or even -7C but not often. Do you think it might die this winter even if in Zone 8A or should I leave it in the ground and not worry? Or should I put it back into the pot and bring it inside the house for the winter? The tree when arrived from NG was barely 5 inches tall from ground up and now it is about 8 inches and a bit wider, has not grown much in almost a year, but added some branches. Should I still keep it in the house for winter until it reaches certain size or is it ok to leave it in the ground in my zone?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 3:42PM
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Where can I get them in the USA and will they grow here in the Houston TX (zone 8) area? thanks, katmountainman@yahoo.com

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:39AM
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