Cloning techniques will be employed so as to save 2000-year old “Lady Liberty” from imminent death.
The legendary cypress tree, found in the Big Tree Park from Longwood, Florida, is around 89 feet tall, and its trunk measures circa 10 feet in diameter, while its circumference is of approximately 32 feet.
With such staggering proportions, the cypress dwarfs other plants in the area, which include American sweetgum trees, sabal palms and red hickories.
Given the fact that the tree has stood tall for two millennia, Lady Liberty is closely guarded by a fence with a height of around 8 feet, but all the security measures in the world can’t stop time from taking its toll on this ancient relic.
According to David Milarch, co-founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a nonprofit organization aiming to reforest the planet by cloning the largest and most renowned old-growth trees, the best-case scenario is that the iconic cypress tree will manage to survive for another half a decade.
That is why Andrew Kittsley, urban forester at the City of Orlando Parks Division believed that the best solution would be to take a sample from Lady Liberty, so as to create a clone and extend the life of this ancient tree.
While Seminole County officials weren’t exactly convinced that the cypress was indeed in imminent danger, they still thought it would be best to approve such plans.
Another majestic tree called the Senator, which was actually the largest and most ancient bald cypress in the world, was accidentally set on fire by a drug addict back in January 2012, and only its charred stump is left nowadays, at approximately 40 feet away from Lady Liberty.
To make sure that this remaining cypress will not perish also, on Monday December 28 a group of three climbers cut small twigs from the upper part of the tree’s crown.
Immediately after retrieving the sprigs, John Alleyne, an expert in horticulture previously employed by the University of Florida, identified the best samples, and made sure that they weren’t affected by any type of disease or other trauma. Afterwards, the tissues were kept cooled with ice, before being sent to a cloning lab in Michigan.
It is hoped that the old cypress tree will go through the same process as the 3,500-year-old Senator, which was also cloned a few years back. At the time, parts of its tissue were implanted in another cypress tree, right at root level, so that they could gradually sprout their own roots.
Nowadays, the genetically altered tree, called the Phoenix, measures around 50 feet and can be seen by visitors close to the Big Tree Park entrance.
In Lady Liberty’s case, a much larger number of clones will be produced: experts wish to create 100 genetic copies of the tree, of which 20 will be planted by Florida elementary schoolkids, while the rest will assist reforestation efforts throughout the nation.
Image Source: Flickr