- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Researchers will take DNA samples today from 13 trees planted by George Washington on his Mount Vernon home in Virginia, said Dean Norton, the historical site's director of horticulture.
The event is part of a celebration of the first president's birthday, which began on Saturday morning with a two-day Breakfast with George Washington program and the "Smallest Hometown Parade in America."
A presidential wreath-laying to honor Washington is scheduled for 10 this morning, followed by a patriotic salute on the Bowling Green at 10:15 featuring the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry and colonial-attired soldiers, who will demonstrate 18th-century battlefield techniques.
The trees, which are nearing the end of their life cycles, will be examined in public view and their genetic profiles determined to preserve their true lineage, Mr. Norton said in a news release. The analyses will be conducted at the U.S. Forest Service's National Forest Genetic Electrophoresis Laboratory in Placerville, Calif.
Washington's trees are seven American hollies, one Canadian hemlock, two tulip poplars, two white ashes and one white mulberry.
In August, material was collected from these trees to produce genetic duplicates through propagation and grafting. Once these duplicates are established, Mount Vernon will be able to preserve them for use on the estate and for horticultural programs, the news release said.
The Forest Service's genetic profiles will be used to authenticate clones of these trees, ensuring that the only living witnesses to the life and times of George Washington will be recognized and protected for future generations.
In keeping with Washington's spirit of scientific innovation, Mr. Norton said, the genetic information of these relatively unstudied species will be available to scientists worldwide, and will serve as a base of information for the collection of additional genetic data.
Small samples will be collected today because the trees are in their dormant stage. Additional samples will be taken in the spring when the deciduous trees are in leaf. Laboratory analyses of the samples will begin within days of collection. A final report of the findings is expected by September.

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