Two ghost gum trees made famous by the work of Australian aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been found burnt.
Officials in the town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory say they believe the fire was started deliberately.
The trees had been due to be added to a national heritage register.
The trees are regarded as living spirits in indigenous culture and feature in many of Namatjira's watercolour paintings.
Officials say that work had recently been carried out to protect the trees from fire and to allow moisture to get to their roots.
The Northern Territory's Minister for Indigenous Advancement Alison Anderson called the discovery "really, really sad".
"It's the two trees that brought this man to prominence and brought the Northern Territory and Central Australia to prominence and put us on the world map," Ms Anderson said.
Art writer Susan McCulloch told the Sydney Morning Herald that the destruction of the trees was "appalling and a tragic act of cultural vandalism".
Namatjira was born in 1902 near Alice Springs and was a traditional custodian of the lands of the Arrernte people in that area.
He began painting in the 1930s and earned widespread acclaim for his vivid landscape paintings of the central Australian desert.
In 1957 he was granted full Australian citizenship, as opposed to other indigenous people, who were considered wards of state in the Northern Territory.
In 1958 he spent two months in prison for a charge of supplying alcohol to other indigenous people. Citizens were entitled to procure alcohol, but it was illegal to supply to wards of state, including indigenous people. He died in 1959.
Born at Hermannsburg in Australia's Northern Territory in 1902
Introduced to Western-style painting by artists such as Rex Battarbee
Held first solo exhibition in 1938
Famous for his depictions of the central Australian landscape
Died in 1959
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