'The Senator' tree cloned by scientists



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Almost two years after an ancient and massive cypress tree burned down in Seminole County, there are new efforts to get the tree's clone planted.

A fire destroyed The Senator, as the tree was called, at Big Tree Park in January 2012.

A third clone of the tree will be planted just weeks before the trial is expected to start for a woman accused of smoking methamphetamine and burning down the original tree.

Tiffany Weider is keeping a family tradition alive.

"I remember as a family growing up, we would always come to Big Tree Park and walk down and see The Senator," Weider said.

The Senator was 3,500 years old. Officials said it burned down when Sara Barnes started a fire while smoking meth.

But The Senator lives on.

Scientists had taken samplings of The Senator before it burned down and harvested them to create 50-foot replicas of the tree. Now, one of those replicas is going to Oviedo at the park.

"We're going to put it by a water feature. It's in a prominent location, so as it grows, it'll provide the shade necessary," said Oviedo councilman Stephen Schenck.

It's going to cost about $13,000, and there's already a clone just feet from the original at Big Tree Park and one at Reiter Park, in Longwood.

Barnes' trial should start next month.

"I think the clone is a kind of a neat way to pass it on; to keep the tree alive in some sense," said Weider.

Investigators said Barnes told them she started the fire because it was dark and she wanted to see the drugs that she was doing.

However, she had pleaded not guilty.