Scientists in Queensland have brought life to a clone of the 210-year-old Tree of Knowledge, the birthplace of the Australian Labor Movement.
As reported by the Queensland Government, the Tree of Knowledge is a ghost gum originally located in Barcaldine, in regional Queensland.
Clones of the original tree were collected and propagated by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Forestry Science Team before premature death in 2006 from RoundUp poisoning.
At the time of the poisoning, Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler said the RoundUp poisoning also killed “the little ghost gum that (former Labor prime minister) Bob Hawke planted in 1991 to commemorate the shearers’ strike.”
After the poisoning, the ABC reported that laminated leaves from the deceased tree were sold to tourists visiting outback Queensland.
“In hindsight, when the tree was dropping its leaves, they were raking them up by the thousands, but there’s been a hell of a lot of interest in getting a piece of the old tree now because it’s history,” former ALP Branch Chair and former Councillor Pat Ogden said.
“When they run out, we’ll probably sell the leaves from the young tree that’s been propagated off it.”
The latest development revives hope that the tree’s legacy can live on.
Queensland Senior Forestry Technician John Oostenbrink propagated several clones, one at the Department’s Eco-Sciences Precinct in Dutton Brisbane and another in the National Arboretum in Canberra.
In February 2023, Forestry and Biosciences Director Dr Tim Smith assessed the Tree of Knowledge clone at Eco-Sciences and found copper deficiency was impacting the tree.
Copper is an essential nutrient that provides photosynthesis and lignification of cell walls.
When copper is deficient, tree branches become droopy, and stems tend to have a characteristic ‘S’ bend.
Dr Smith applied copper to address the primary deficiency, plus a low and balanced range of 15 other essential nutrients to aid the recovery process.
The Tree of Knowledge progeny took about eight weeks to respond to the nutrient treatment.
Forestry Science and Bioscience team members are closely attached to the tree and monitor its wellbeing.
“The Tree of Knowledge is a Queensland and Australian icon,” Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Rural Communities Mark Furner said.
“It warms my heart to see the brilliant work of our scientists in keeping its legacy alive.”
Next week, all eyes will be on Brisbane when the Australia Labour Party will meet for the ALP National Conference from April 17-19, 2023.
Amongst the headlines, although not part of the programme itself, will be the ALP position on native foresty management and agricultural land clearing.
Minister Furner said, “The labour movement founded at the Tree of Knowledge has been instrumental in creating a fairer Australia and transforming countless lives for the better.”
“It’s important that we do everything possible to preserve the legacy this icon helped to build for Queensland and the entire nation.”
“I want to pay tribute to the outstanding efforts of the Queensland scientists who have helped preserve this important offspring of the Tree of Knowledge.”