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One of the oldest living plants on Earth, a 3,500-year-old bald cypress known as "The Senator," was destroyed by fire in January in Seminole County, Fla. But that does not mean it must be gone forever.

Fire-ravaged ancient tree candidate for cloning

One of the oldest living plants on Earth, a 3,500-year-old bald cypress known as “The Senator,” was destroyed by fire in January in Seminole County, Fla. But that does not mean it must be gone forever.


Recent advances in plant-cloning technologies offer the strong possibility that The Senator could be resurrected and its long-lived genetic stock reproduced. The president of U.S. Lawns called for renewed efforts to make that happen.


“This tragic loss brings into sharp focus the need to preserve and replicate true wonders of the natural world living here in our own backyard, such as The Senator and the 2,000-year-old Lady Liberty that’s nearby,” said U.S. Lawns President Ken Hutcheson.


Efforts to clone The Senator in the 1990s failed, but techniques developed since then now make cloning possible, said David Milarch, founder of the respected Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.


“There is a golden opportunity in this tragedy,” said Milarch, whose nonprofit organization recently cloned long-ago felled California redwoods.


Hutcheson and Milarch agree the next step is up to the community. Seminole County, Fla., officials said they are trying to locate cuttings taken from The Senator in 1998 and have discussed building a memorial to the ancient wonder at Seminole County’s Big Tree Park.


“I can’t think of a better memorial than to replicate The Senator hundreds of times over and have its hardy clones growing across that state,” said Hutcheson, who encouraged consideration of the cloning option in a Letter to the Editor published in the Jan. 18 Orlando Sentinel.


 

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