'Senator' clones heading to Big Tree Park, Longwood



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Two clones of the 3,500-year-old "Senator" cypress tree will be heading to Longwood and Big Tree Park soon from northern Florida.

Last year, a woman smoking methamphetamine set fire to the original Senator in Seminole County.

The tree was the main attraction at Big Tree Park, which underwent major changes in preparation to the clone's arrival.

A farmer in north Florida was able to clone the Senator, and it's going to be trucked in on Monday.

Channel 9's Racquel Asa went up to LaFayette County to find out how officials plan to get the tree to Longwood and Big Tree Park.

Marvin Bucanan of Central Florida Natural Lands started an orchard with several Senator clones, but he never imagined one of the trees would end up replacing the original.

"We didn't grow it for that purpose," Bucanan said. "We grew it for the seeds to replant."

Big Tree Park will reopen in March with 8-foot fencing that will protect the park, as well as the remaining stump of the Senator and the new clone.

Seminole County plans to spend $82,000 for a new playground, landscaping and a new boardwalk, which will serve as memorial to the Senator.

There will also be signs along the boardwalk that will show how the tree grew over the years.

Right now, the clones aren't anywhere near the width and height or the original, which at one point was more than 160 feet tall and 18 feet wide.

Bucanan said it'll be hundreds, if not thousands of years to get the clone as big as the Senator.

But genetically, Bucanan's 50-foot clone is the same as the Senator, just smaller.

"This was a limb off of that tree, so this particular tree right here was at least 1,500 years old when Christ was here," Bucanan said of the original Senator.

The seven Senator clones that sit in Bucanan's orchard all started from a small branch. Pieces of it were broken off and taped to root stock. Then, when the tree grew to about 3 feet tall, it was taken out of the pot and planted in the ground.

But the roots were bagged-up and they're ready for the 200-mile trip to Seminole County.

"This is going to take a full semi to carry this thing down there," said Bucanan.

And while Bucanan is sad to see the tree go, he's glad it will stand in the Senator's place.

A second clone of the Senator will be placed in Longwood at Reiter Park next to the heroes memorial. It arrives Tuesday.

Each tree cost nearly $13,000.

In April, Sara Barnes pleaded not guilty to setting the Senator on fire.

A tip to CrimeLine following the incident led investigators to Barnes after she was allegedly heard bragging to her friends that she burnt the tree down while smoking meth inside a hollowed part of it.