THE iconic 'lone tree' at Shoal Point - a favourite subject of Mackay photographers - has been deliberately set on fire.
It's likely the tree, perhaps the most famous in the Mackay region, would be reduced to embers overnight, according to photographer Cherrie Hughes.
A small crowd gathered at Shoal Point on Sunday afternoon to commiserate.
Parents snapped what could be their last photos of the tree with their children and spoke about how sad it was to see the tree burning before their eyes.
Yes, it's just a tree - but it's also featured in tourist snapshots, brochures and articles far and wide.
Ms Hughes said "it wasn't just the tree" which was set on fire though, with many bits of wood strangely set alight in the surrounding area.
"If it wasn't so wet from the rain it might have caused more damage to trees and that sort of thing in the area," she said.
Ms Hughes discovered the odd occurrence on Sunday morning.
"The tree itself, someone - firebugs - have made a really concerted effort to destroy it. It looks like something has been embedded to set it on fire," she said.
"Because it's a hollow tree, there was flames coming out of all the hollows on Sunday. It won't see the night out."
Ms Hughes said "from a photographers point of view the tree cut a fine figure".
"It's a beautiful silhouette. It's a gorgeous spot on any given day with the light at Shoal Point. But having that tree there with all the empty space really catches your eye," she said.
"And of course, social media has made it very popular, although locals have known for much longer."
Ms Hughes, who runs the Mackay Instagrammers group, said the tree has featured on the Queensland Weekender TV show.
It's also been used heavily as a promotional tool for Mackay Tourism.
Ms Hughes said she'd heard there was once about 30 trees like the 'lone tree' on the beach.
If anyone has information on the vandalism, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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