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Aussie Icons #5 - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine, Queensland

Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine Queensland
When the Tree of Knowledge was poisoned shortly after it's inclusion on the National Heritage List on Australia Day, 2006, I was appalled. Another Aussie historic landmark fallen victim to the disregard sometimes shown for our heritage. So … while appalled, I was also resigned to its fate. If a tree dies, it's gone for good, right? RIGHT??


Is it just OZ where a replacement tree would be considered a viable option? Maybe, maybe not. But we're not talking a simple replanting. That'd be too easy. We're talking rebuilding!

So when news broke that the tree would be replaced by a virtual monument – an homage to the original Tree of Knowledge – I was sceptical.

Could a virtual tree memorial be built that actually at least equalled the real thing? Because if it DIDN'T, what would be the point??

Roses and Things - Afternoon Tea

You've probably figured by now that this Tree of Knowledge isn't the Garden of Eden original. Although the nearby Roses and Things garden and tea rooms closely approximates how I'd imagined the legendary garden, downtown Barcaldine isn't quite the same thing!  Despite it being known as 'Garden City of the West' ...

Exterior - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine
But why all this fuss about a tree?

Well ... Barcaldine is WAAAY more than just an edenesque Rose Garden and killer bakery! It's arguably the only place in Australia – if not the world! - with a combination heritage walk/pub crawl based around the 5 historic pubs in the main street!!

But I digress …

One of Barcaldine's 5 main street pubs!
In 1891, a dispute between shearers, their union and local pastoralists polarised political opinion, culminating in an historic strike and the rise of the Australian Labor Party. Events unfolded under a Ghost Gum (Eucalyptus papuana) in the town's centre, subsequently dubbed the 'Tree of Knowledge'.

A local and national iconic symbol, poisoning the tree wasn't just vandalism - but political sabotage. And an appropriate replacement for this priceless icon?

Or was it?

Under the Canopy - Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine
 So, in August 2011, I approached the virtual tree with some apprehension.  Probably the best I could hope for was that I didn't hate it. But, standing in the shade covering the area of the original canopy, I experienced a rare moment of speechless admiration. Incorporating the preserved trunk and some branches of the original, but with a canopy of wooden cylinders to replicate leaves and the sound of wind in the 'foliage', this awesome virtual tree ROCKS*!

This stunning tribute actually betters (in my opinion!) the original icon it commemorates.

But perhaps that's partly because it provides a unique photographic experience in that it's almost impossible to take a poor shot!!

Under the Canopy - Detail
And there's hope for the future too, with Barcaldine's Australian Workers Heritage Centre home to the 'Young-Un' (or Son of Tree of Knowledge!) grown from the original tree's DNA!

So, maybe another icon will be unveiled at the 'Tree of Knowledge' festival in another hundred years or so!!  Watch this space ...

* Well done, Brian Hooper and m3architecture!

PS  So as not to disappoint regular readers accustomed to a never-ending stream of Outback 
cliché shots, I leave you with this superb windmill just outside the Barcaldine Visitor Information Centre!  You're welcome ...

Windmill, Barcaldine, Queensland

Oh!  One more thing ... if you think THIS is amazing, check out 'Our World Tuesday' for more fabulousness (?!) from all around the world!


  1. Hi Red
    I didn't know this was installed, I just heard the tree had been poisoned. Wow. It looks stunning, and sounds like it sounds amazing too.
    Definitely going on my bucket list.
    BTW thanks for the windmill fix.

  2. I'd never heard of this tree, but this installation looks amazing and would be an amazing place to experience.

    Virtual travel, looking over Red's shoulder - loving it!

  3. Yeah, the same thing has happened here in the States several times. We've had several historical trees poisoned and killed for insane reasons.

  4. That really is beautiful, Red.

    I really don't understand poisoning a tree...I mean I get it for the impact of the message, but geez. It just feels wrong at a very basic level to me.

  5. Hello Red:
    We agree that the new 'tree' is simply sensational. Such an original idea and very effective in our view. The modern canopy and the original tree trunk complement each other perfectly. An icon of the age most definitely.

  6. i've never heard of that tree before.
    but i have to agree with TriGirl, it feels wrong poisoning a tree...

    excellent pictures!

    wishing you a great week ahead.

    big hugs!
    betty xx

  7. It looks quite spectacular from the inside. Do you know if the local council paid for it?

  8. Someone with a jealous streak or grudge could be behind the posioning of the tree i suspect. Its replacement is spectacular though :-).

  9. Wow! I can hardly wait to come back in a hundred years to see what's happening next! ;) Oh, and thanks for the windmill.

  10. Y'all sure know how to build a wind chime down under.

  11. wonderful windmill and not a 'Southern Cross' but a 'Comet' brand. Thanks for The ToK information. I hate to see trees felled anywhere.
    Your 'killer Barcaldine bakery' remark grabs me though. what is it about country bakeries?
    always memorable experiences.

  12. I love your post and your photos make it all so real of course. I love the images of being under the canopy. Amazing shots and amazing what Brian Hooper and m3architecture have done. Checked our their page also - looks like a terrific firm. Must show to my architect hubby.

  13. BTW - I love your blog button and added it to my blog :D Bottom right corner.

  14. There are cases all over the world of people poisoning very old and venerable trees, and I cannot fathom why. It's a terrible crime. I think that the virtual tree is gorgeous, however!

  15. What a story! And trying to grow it again from its DNA, amazing! The power of symbols :-). I like the installation though, very much!


  16. I didn't know anything about this tree until I read this. I did a Google and found out that the tree was successfully cloned in 2008 by workers at the former Queensland Department of Primary Industries!

  17. The Tree of Knowledge looks much more impressive from the inside. How did the original get poisoned? Was it done on purpose or accidentally?

  18. I does look like a stunning piece of art. I hope to see it one day.

  19. yes River - 'accidentally' is a possibility. maybe they watered it with grey water - gumtrees dont like grey water.

    I love the 5 pubs in the main street - wow.
    Thanks Red Nomad.

  20. This is absolutely amazing that an act of vandalism can inspire an artist to create such a thing of beauty! Thanks for sharing this. I am going to google this place, for next year I am going to see my daughter in Queensland again, So who knows is it possible to see this.

  21. This was very interesting. I had never heard of the Tree of Knowledge and don't understand how anyone could poison a tree. Great pictures.

  22. A wonderful post to read... lovely images.

  23. Here in Edmonton, if something is 20 years old, it's considered a wreck and torn down/replaced. Consequently, you have to look to find anything heritage-ous (my word). It's sad. And when I hear of a heritage site being deliberately destroyed, I think, "Huh! I wonder if someone from Edmonton lives there!" Seriously, it is my single 'makes-me-really-angry' pet peeve. But what a unique and wonderful way to turn a tragedy into something beautiful and living! Yet another item on my 'to see' list in Australia! Thank you for sharing.

  24. @FruitCake - Nothing not to like about the virtual tree (if I can allow myself the indulgence of a double negative). And will my store of windmill pix run out before you tire of them? We shall see!!
    @Eccentricess - Love that you love it!! But nothing beats the real thing!
    @Beach Bum - culprit not yet discovered in this case so whether or not the reason's 'insane' is unknown... but my money's on a political motive!!
    @TriGirl - You're right, it's wrong, the end! At least if a landmark is defaced it can be restored - but this is unforgiveable!
    @J&L - I'm still gobsmacked at how brilliant it is! And an evil part of me thinks it says 'up yours' to the saboteur/s!
    @Betty - I think we ALL agree with TriGirl! Hope your week is brill too!!

  25. @ladyfi - It doesn't just LOOK amazing, it sounds and feels amazing too, like the spectacular landmark it's become!
    @Andrew - I believe the memorial cost $5 million - with contributions from a number of sources. So I'm thinking somewhere, somehow you & I have made a contribution, however small!
    @Windsmoke - no coincidence it happened just after National Heritage status was conferred, I suspect! But I AM just an amateur sleuth!!
    @EGWow - See you there!! And the windmill? Pah, it was nothing ...
    @SFlaGuy - Hahaha!! But a windchime like that on your front porch would drive you stark staring bonkers!!!
    @Ann O'Dyne - Yeah, you can NEVER visit too many bakeries, and country ones are the best! I should know, I'm a bakery s**t!!

  26. @Mari - Selfishly, part of the appeal is how well it photgraphs, even for amateurs! Thanx for taking the button - it links to my dormant 'Round the World' series which I hope to resurrect soon!!
    @NJAMB - I don't get it either. But this is a case of a (symbolic) phoenix rising from the (virtual) ashes!
    @Alessandra - the science escapes me, but I believe it was cloned (see 25BAR's comment)!
    @25BAR - Who says government departments are useless! I won't have it!!!
    @River - I believe the poison was a derivative of Round-Up! My deductive reasoning powers therefore tell me it WASN'T accidental (but I AM merely an amateur!)
    @Joan - I hope you do too, and photograph it! I'd love to see your take on it!!
    @Ann O'Dyne - see above response to River ... and the 5 pubs are ALL classics!!
    @Reader Wil - Oh, I SO hope you'll get to see it! I was lucky enough to get a perfectly clear outback day on my visit - hope you do too!
    @Andrew - Thanx! Come back anytime with comments like that ...
    @Diane - Sadly, you don't have the monopoly on drop-kicks (a nice-ish Aussie word for all the nasty ones you're thinking of to describe those who who do such unspeakeable things). But happily, still plenty of heritage-ous things downunder!!

  27. That is an amazing structure, and very effective and wonderful way to preserve the Tree of Knowledge. Fantastic photo's too, pity we can't hear the wind in the virtual leaves!

  28. A little P.S. I tried several times to leave comments on two of your other posts and they just kept disappearing. I was happy the last one went through ok, so now I'll go back to your previous post.

  29. Hi there - the difference between the idea of the new tree and the idea of killing the old one really is rather staggering. Never got to see the original, so I'll have to add the replacement to my list of things to see.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

  30. I enjoyed your virtual tour of your OZ world downunder.

  31. Sad about the poisoning but a great response :)

  32. Blogging connect people and more people learn a lot! I had never hear about the tree of the knowledge! It looks beautiful!

  33. Those are some good photos of beautiful colors, great shots! They are all lovely but the first is my favorite.

  34. Thankyou for calling by my blog as another participant for Our World Tuesday, it is appreciated and I have enjoyed returning the visit. What a fascinating post.

  35. Wow~! This post was like a mini-novel! I was sad (rminded me of the song 'they paved Paradise and put in a parking lot'?)...I was happy ...they did a great job of the commemeration of the lost icon .... I was ecstatic, I have a reason to live another hundred years to see the DNA replacement. (Well, maybe not that last one).

    I loved this post!!

  36. Very sad to hear that the magnificent tree was poisoned because of political sabotage. Original one must have been preserved for future generation.
    Best wishes,

  37. What a beautiful and clever idea. Bloody shame that the original was killed by some mental pygmies though.

  38. I agree with you, the replica tree is a very beautiful object indeed.

    It's just a shame that some moron(s) felt the need to destroy the original.

  39. @Jackie - thanx for persisting!! And thanx even more for dropping in ... come back anytime!
    @Stewart - I saw the original many years ago, but can't find a photo. We never know when we've had the last opportunity to take a photo - I won't be making that mistake again!
    @Pam - Welcome, and thanx! Many more virtual tours to come ...
    @Robin - I guess that's the silver lining ...
    @Sandra Carlier - I'm always amazed by where my visitors drop in from! And I LOVE learning from other blogs as well!!

  40. @Leovi - that's why I put that one first! It was my favourite too!!
    @LindyLouMac - Thanx! The post was fun to write - glad you enjoyed!
    @Sallie - thanx for helping me out with the comments thing - and thanx for coming back to read my post!! Maybe if we live well, we can both make it to the 100 year tribute!!
    @snowwhite - Welcome, and thanx! Out of the sadness comes this great work of art!

  41. @Kath - I can't believe anyone would be so wantonly destructive - 'get over yourself and get a life' is all I can think of to say!
    @Friko - If there's a positive, it's that something so magnificent was inspired by the destruction.
    @Mrs Tuna - Well, thanx! I know how much your praise for something that's so patently NOT a scenic public loo means!

  42. Thank goodness they didn't just give up on the memory/tradition of the tree Red, I'm with you, I think this might be an even more enduring icon that will be around for maybe a lot longer than the actual tree. Hope you have a fabulous weekend.

  43. @PDP - Glad you agree! Although it DID occur to me that the virtual tree is susceptible to fire ...

  44. Wow, this is my first time to hear about the tree.Love to visit the place someday. Beautiful photos as always.

    Thank you for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

  45. If I didn't see the pics, I would be skeptical too. It's a good thing your government recognizes that some things need to be preserved. I wish those who are in power in the Philippines would get realize that as well. *sigh*

  46. @Aleah - sadly, the preservation is patchy. I suspect this was only preserved because of its political importance!

  47. Yikes, who poisons a tree?? That is a really cool installation, though, and I imagine it's way more impressive in person. :)

  48. this place is super cool- we didn't make it during our time in Queensland but I would love to check it out when we head back.

  49. @Technosyncratic TB - Yeah, the mind boggles with the possibilities! The tree is AMAZING in person!!
    @jade - With any luck it'll still be there!! Welcome - and thanx for dropping by!


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