- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

Arboriculturists in bucket trucks carried out a rescue operation at Mount Vernon yesterday, gathering up buds from the last of George Washington's trees in order to clone and preserve them.
The effort undoubtedly would have met with the first president's approval, as he took great pride in carefully arranging particular trees over 200 acres of his land along the Potomac River.
The timing is important, as only 13 remain from the hundreds planted under Washington's supervision more than 200 years ago.
"We're doing this not for now, but for 30, 50 years from now," said Dean Norton, Mount Vernon's director of horticulture.
Tree climbers, under the watchful gaze of visiting tourists and Boy Scouts, used cherry pickers to find just the right bud wood 100 feet up the trees on the lawn in front of Washington's mansion.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, came out to cheer on the project and its sponsor, grower David Milarch of Copemish, Mich.
"By preserving these trees, we're preserving a piece of history," said Mr. Milarch, who praised Washington as a great conservationist.
About 50 branches were taken from each tree.
Mr. Milarch expected to send the samples and their vital DNA overnight to nurseries, where each bud was to be grafted onto the root stock of a similar tree, producing genetic duplicates.
After a year or two, these mature clones — seven American hollies, two tulip poplars, two white ash, one hemlock and one white mulberry — will be planted at Mount Vernon.
If one of the original trees dies, a clone can be planted in its place.
All of the 13 remaining trees are on the Bowling Green in front of the mansion, where they likely have received more care and protection over the years than the trees in the woods.
Mr. Milarch offered his help after a recent visit to discuss a separate reforestation endeavor.
Together with the National Tree Trust, Mr. Milarch and his family will provide 1,000 trees — 100 per year over 10 years — to replenish Mount Vernon's woodlands. The saplings will be fenced and protected from wildlife.
"That effort will use a certain number of national champion clones and a certain number of other species that George Washington designated he wanted to see here," said George Cates of the National Tree Trust.
So-called "champion trees" are the biggest and oldest representatives of a species, lasting from 500 years to thousands of years.
"Those trees are what we inside the circle call national heirlooms, and they have survived the test of time, everything that Mother Nature has thrown at them," Mr. Cates said.
Mount Vernon has lost hundreds of trees over the years to harsh weather, pests and deer. About 50 trees died during the past 100 years alone.
"Although the woods look great right now, the [number of deer feeding on the young trees] is so high that all we have is mature trees. We have no young trees," Mr. Norton said.
"As the old trees die, there's nothing to replace them, so we're going to have to do it ourselves."

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