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Cloning Florida's 2,000-Year-Old 'Lady Liberty' To Save Iconic Bald Cypress Trees

Dec 29, 2015 01:15 PM EST
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A nonprofit organization known as the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive plans to clone Florida's oldest Bald Cypress tree before the iconic species dies out.

"Lady Liberty" is a 2,000-year-old, 89-foot-tall tree living in Seminole County's Big Tree Park in Longwood -- the same park where its older and larger sibling "The Senator" burned down in 2012.

"Having what happened to The Senator, we cannot sit back and not do anything," Jim Duby, Seminole County's natural-lands program manager, said in a statement.

Lady Liberty has a 10-foot diameter and a 32-foot circumference.  Researchers plan to create up to 100 genetic replicas for preservation and replanting across the country. Once the clones have been bred, 20 will be donated to Florida elementary schools for planting by students.

"We believe that this tree is something special. Throughout time, it has seen droughts and disease, and over time it has acquired or developed the DNA to withstand those things," Jake Milarch of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive added. (Scroll to read more...)

If approved, the nonprofit organization will spend the next six months gently taking small cuttings of new growth from the top of the ancient tree to start the cloning process. Then, in about two years, new saplings will be ready for planting.

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive regularly finds and archives samples of some of the world's largest and oldest trees, including hemlocks, redwoods and sequoias. They have cloned thousands of trees in the U.S. in an effort to "propagate the world's most important old-growth trees before they are gone." Their living genetic libraries can be used for future research and restoration efforts. 

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