NYC Cloning Historical Trees for Future
By RICHARD PYLE, Associated Press Writer
Posted: January 11, 2008
A young man walks by a 100 year-old beech tree in Central Park
in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. The city of New York has
contracted a Connecticut-based tree company to snip off 6- to
12-inch sections of the tree which will be cloned at a scientific
tree nursery in eastern Oregon. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP) -- Squat, homely, dwarfed by stately oaks and poplars,
and unnoticed by the tourists passing in horse-drawn carriages,
it's a tree that only birds and nut-hungry squirrels could love.
But the 100-year-old European beech on Central Park's Cherry
Hill was the center of attention Thursday, chosen by city officials
as the first of 25 "historical" trees to be cloned
as part of a plan to add a million new trees to public spaces
over the next decade.
Agriculture students from a Queens high school rode hydraulic-powered
tree-trimmers' buckets to upper branches of the 60-foot tree
and snipped off 6- to 12-inch sections of new growth, which
will be sent to a scientific tree nursery in eastern Oregon.
If all goes well, the genetic-match saplings will return in
two years to be replanted as part of the "Million Trees
NYC" project announced last year.
"We want to break the stereotype of New York as skyscrapers
and sidewalks," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape said.
"New York abounds in historical trees."
The target trees, five in each of New York's five boroughs,
include nine different species. All were selected by borough
foresters as historical for having existed for at least a century
- either as fixtures of the urban landscape or as having special
significance to local communities.
Among them is what may be the city's oldest tree, the St. Nicholas
elm in upper Manhattan, which George Washington is said to have
walked under 230 years ago during the American Revolution.
Partners in the cloning effort include the Central Park Conservancy,
a private group that manages the 840-acre park; Bartlett Tree
Experts, a Connecticut-based company that has tree care contracts
in New York, 25 other states, Canada, England and Ireland; the
nonprofit Tree Fund and the Coleman Co., a camping equipment
maker whose coolers will be used to ship the cuttings to Oregon.
David McMaster, a Bartlett vice president, said the cloning
would target several "Olmsted trees," dating from
the creation of Central Park by famed architect Frederick Law
Olmsted in the late 1850s.
"Our intention here is to go after significant trees that
we know Olmsted planted over 150 years ago," he said.
Benape said being less than beautiful had no bearing on the
European beech tree's potential contribution to a greener Gotham.
"Like the other trees to be cloned, it has withstood the
test of time and the indignities of urban life," he said.
"These trees as a result tend to be hardier species, inherently
disease resistant. They are a great reaffirmation of the importance
of nature in New York City - trees so good that people are looking
to clone them."
McMaster said the cloning is a two-stage process in which cuttings
are grafted to roots of the same species at the Schichtel Nursery
in Oregon, and the new growth is later peeled away to create
a sapling with the DNA of the original tree.
The result is a genetically identical tree, although not one
identical in shape to the original. Some trees - ash, oak and
elm - that are particularly susceptible to disease must be certified
as healthy to be cloned, he said.
Each of the cuttings will produce 10 genetic copies of the
original tree, allowed to grow to 2 to 3 feet before being sent
back to New York for replanting.
Janet Bornancin, executive director of the Wheaton, Ill.-based
Tree Fund, a research and education organization, said studies
show trees live an average of 80 years in forests, 50 years
in parks and about seven years on city streets.
Environmental pressures in the city include air pollution,
road salt, tightly packed, nutrient-poor soil and cramped space
for root growth - even wrapping holiday lights too tightly,
"Every time a jet aircraft flies over the city it drops
kerosene that damages trees," McMaster added.
Article at: physorg.com