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Sparkle 01-27-09 10:03 AM

Winds topple Marie Antoinette's tree at Versailles
Winds topple Marie Antoinette's tree at Versailles

Associated Press Writer Ivan Couronne, Associated Press Writer – 55 mins ago

A man stands by a fallen 223 year-old beech tree in Marie Antoinette's garden, seen behind, at Versailles Palace, west of Paris, Tuesday Jan. 27, 2009. A powerful storm that killed nine people, leveled swaths of cultivated pine forest and ripped down power lines across southwest France had an impact near Paris too: a celebrated, 223-year old beech tree in Marie Antoinette's garden at Versailles Palace was also ripped from its roots.
(AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

The 82-foot (25-meter) high purple beech, one of the last trees in a hamlet dedicated to the former queen in the vast palace park, was felled Friday by an unusually fierce winter gust, the park's head gardener said.

"Imagine how an old tree in Versailles is vulnerable to the wind," gardener Alain Baraton told AP Television News on Tuesday. "That was all it took to cause the tree to fall and crash."

At least 21 people died in the winter storm that pounded France and Spain last week.

The 223-year-old tree's collapse, which also exhumed a jumble of roots, earth and grass, was the latest blow to the ex-queen's Versailles vegetation after her most cherished oak tree died in a 2003 heat wave.

The beech, a facus sylvatica purpura, featured its own plaque showing that it was planted in 1786. A decade ago, it had been damaged but survived an even more destructive storm that knocked down thousands of trees at Versailles.

Following that tempest, the beech's roots had grown moldy and shrunk so much that they could no longer counterbalance the weight of its 22-meter (72-foot) span of branches, Baraton said.

The beech will get an unceremonious finish: It will be cut up and sold to paper makers, he said.

Winds topple Marie Antoinette's tree at Versailles - Yahoo! News

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