Historic 'Tree of Knowledge' dies in Queensland, Australia

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Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The tree said to be the birthplace of the centre-left Australian Labor Party, the Tree of Knowledge, in Barcaldine, Queensland has been pronounced dead by a tree doctor.

In May the 200-year-old tree was poisoned with up to 40 liters of Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup.

"In May we noticed the leaves falling off it. Now there are no leaves and the limbs are up there in the air just like a ghost," caretaker and local ALP president Pat Ogden said.

According to party mythology the first branch of the ALP was founded under the tree in 1891 by protesting sheep shearers. They were confronted by 1000 soldiers and police for the colonial government and felt threatened of attack. Eventually their leaders were arrested and replacement workers were brought in.

Mr. Ogden, said on ABC radio, referring to the future of the tree "...it really hasn't been discussed yet, but the general consensus is that we'll prune it right back and leave the main part of the tree there and, sort of make a monument out of it...The council are trustees of it, so it'll be up to them to make a final decision."

However those who fear that this may be the death of the tree's DNA have nothing to fear as there is an offspring tree called Young 'Un which was cut during the centenary of the protest and is in the Australian Worker's Heritage Centre in Barcaldine. Local leaders and agricultural officials are trying to create a nursery to create seedlings for sale. The project is still in its trial stage after difficulties in getting the plants to prosper. The Department of Primary Industries are using both grafting and cloning techniques to aid the project.

"If we are successful we could have one in every botanical garden in Australia," says the Mayor of Barcaldine, Rob Chandler.

Tourism for the town increased as people wanted to see the tree before it died.

Mr. Chandler is proposing a farewell ceremony which he hopes will attract many of Labor's highly distinguished.

Police are investigating the poisoning.

The ALP has posted an $AU10,000 reward for any information that can help catch those responsible.

Sources

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