Scientists bring Tree of Knowledge clone back from brink

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner
  • Scientists have saved an ailing clone of the historic Tree of Knowledge
  • The tree was revived by applying copper and 15 other essential nutrients
  • Experts continue to monitor the wellbeing of the clone

Queensland scientists have brought new life to a struggling clone of the Barcaldine-based Tree of Knowledge, the historic birthplace of the Australian Labor Party.

The Tree of Knowledge is a ghost gum that was originally located in Barcaldine. Clones of the original Tree of Knowledge were collected and propagated by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Forestry Science Team prior to the tree’s untimely death in 2006 from poisoning.

Senior Forestry Technician John Oostenbrink propagated several clones, with one planted at the Department’s Eco-Sciences Precinct in Brisbane and another planted 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 is needed for functions in 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.

It took about eight weeks for the Tree of Knowledge progeny to respond to the nutrient treatment.

Forestry Science and Bioscience team members have a close attachment to the tree and are keeping an eye on its wellbeing.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner:

“The Tree of Knowledge is a Queensland and Australian icon and it warms my heart to see the brilliant work of our scientists in keeping its legacy alive.

“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 important legacy this icon helped to build not only for Queensland, but for 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.”

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