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The Nation

Seedlings of One of Oldest Trees Are Given to Botanic Garden

August 20, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two spiky green pine seedlings, the offspring of one of the oldest trees on Earth, were presented to the U.S. Botanic Garden on Tuesday as part of an effort to study and eventually clone the world's great trees.

The 10-month-old seedlings, each about 4 inches high, were delivered to the Botanic Garden by northern Michigan tree farmer David Milarch and his son Jared. The Milarchs grew the trees from the seeds of a 4,768-year-old, 55-foot-high bristlecone pine named Methuselah, which grows in the Inyo National Forest on the Nevada-California border.

"This is a plant that we have always wanted," said Holly Shimizu, executive director of the Botanic Garden. "These plants have survived for over 140 human generations."

The seedlings aren't exact copies of Methuselah, named after a long-lived character in the biblical book of Genesis. They only contain half of the gnarled old tree's genetic materials. But when the seedlings are 3 years old, or about the height of a pencil, the Milarchs plan to graft them with more genetic material from Methuselah.

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