updated 2/18/2008 5:07:44 PM ET 2008-02-18T22:07:44

Vienna's "Sisi Palm," a 170-year-old tree named for the late Empress Elisabeth, outlived the Austro-Hungarian Empire and two world wars, but it got the ax on Monday.

With cameras clicking, the Chinese fan palm was chopped down because it had grown too tall and risked punching through the glass ceiling of Europe's largest greenhouse — the Palm House on the grounds of Schoenbrunn Palace.

The palm has more than doubled in height to 82 feet over the past 18 years alone, and its enclosure could no longer contain it.

Guenter Wimmer, spokesman for Austria's federal gardens, said the remnants of the tree would soon be auctioned off. He could not immediately give a date but added that the proceeds would benefit federal garden trainees.

The announcement that the tree would have to go set off a flurry of calls and e-mails with suggestions on how to save it, including some from the United States and Canada, Wimmer said.

"They were mostly tips on how to keep the tree from being chopped down," Wimmer said, adding that the glass house was under a preservation order and so raising the roof was not an option.

This spring, an offshoot of the "Sisi Palm" will be planted in its place, Wimmer said.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists lined up each year to view the tree, which was already 44 when it was moved indoors in 1882 and named in honor of the enigmatic Sisi, the wasp-waisted wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Sisi was said to admire her palm and sit beneath it whenever she found herself pining for the Mediterranean, her favorite part of Europe.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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