During the Jurassic Period, the family had an extensive distribution in both hemispheres, extending as far north as England, Greenland, and Sweden.
In majestic size and beauty, araucariads rival the grander members of the pine family (Pinaceae); both families are conifers (Pinophyta).
Pollen grains of extinct plants are well preserved in ancient strata because of their durable exine coating made from a substance called sporopollenin.
Although it contains only carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, sporopollenin is one of the most stable organic compounds known.
This rare conifer was thought to be extinct: its last fossil record was dated about two million years ago.
Typical of genetic bottlenecks in small populations, chloroplast DNA studies show no discernable genetic variation among the wild trees.
Similar to araucariad pollen, it differed in its coarse, grainy coating.
Further evidence comes from live and fossilized pollen.Hidden away in narrow sandstone ravines for millions of years, the Wollemi pine receives the humidity and moisture necessary for its vital symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.These habitats provided shelter from firestorms that raged in the eucalyptus forests atop the sandstone plateaus.In their native habitat, the trees have multiple trunks; younger stems emerge from the base of the tree and gradually replace older trunks.
Because of this strong coppicing habit, tree-ring dating will never reveal the actual age of an old tree.
Throughout Australia and New Zealand, fossil pollen called has been collected from Jurassic age sediments.