An insidious disease has taken its toll on a local icon and plans for a replacement are already underway.
The Lone Pine in Simpson Park had suffered a significant decline in health and Council Parks staff, after constantly monitoring and providing additional water and other nurturing treatments to the historic tree, sought urgent advice from an expert.
On Friday morning arborist Hugh Taylor, from Australian Tree Consultants, confirmed what Parks staff feared – the tree is dying and beyond treatment. Mr Taylor believes the sudden demise is due to Pine Wilt Nematode (Bursaphelenchus Xylophilus).
The Muswellbrook Lone Pine will be removed and existing soil replaced and sterilised by sunlight for a period of three months. Drip line irrigation will also be installed at the site in preparation for replanting.
The Lone Pine species, Pinus halepensis, is known to be initially fragile and requires considerable care to ensure the tree survives and thrives. A replacement has been sourced by the Muswellbrook RSL Sub Branch from Yarralumla Nursery in Canberra, where the seedlings are propagated.
The original Lone Pine, also known as the Aleppo Pine, was a solitary tree on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey and marked the Battle of Lone Pine in 1915. The pine was the only survivor of a group of trees cut down by Turkish soldiers who used the timber and branches to cover their trenches during the battle.
Two pine cones were brought back to Australia, one by Keith McDonald of the 23rd Battalion and the other by Lance Corporal Benjamin Smith of the 3rd Battalion, who, grieving the loss of his brother in the battle, sent the pine cone home to his mother.
The cone and its seeds were kept in a drawer for around 13 years before an attempt was made to grow some trees, of which two survived.
One was planted at the Australian War Memorial and the other at Inverell, in northern NSW. Each year seeds are carefully collected from the Lone Pine growing at the memorial to produce much sort after offspring – one of which is making its way to Muswellbrook.