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U.S. Capitol Receives First Cloned Tree - 2003-04-25


Friday is Arbor Day in the United States and Thursday the U.S. Capitol received an historical gift a tree identical to one George Washington - the first U.S. President -planted more than 200 years ago. Auria Aguilar-Makki reports.

The tree is a white ash, and it is an exact clone of its parent tree at the Mount Vernon estate of president George Washington in near-by Virginia. Around 1785, Washington planted hundreds of trees but today only thirteen remain alive. Most died from weather changes, pollution and disease.

David Milarch, the owner of a shade tree business based in Michigan came up with the idea of cloning Washington’s trees after he founded the Champion Tree Project. The organization was created to protect the largest and oldest trees in the United States. Milarch says he waited almost two years for this day. He says he feels honored to give the tree to the people of the United States.

DAVID MILARCH, CHAMPION TREE PROJECT
“It’s a gift to the nation, this tree will live on. This tree and its parent literally witnessed the life and times of George Washington. That’s our gift to the country.”

In August 2001, Mr. Milarch and his sons went to Mount Vernon to begin the process of cloning Washington’s trees. They gathered several branches of the thirteen trees planted on the front lawn of the estate. The tree planted today is the first cloned tree and one Mr. Milarch calls proudly his “baby.”

DAVID MILARCH, CHAMPION TREE PROJECT
“This tree grew from a single bud in four to five months. From a single bud to the 7-8 foot tree. Isn’t that amazing? ”

Mr. Milarch says he would be honored to continue planting trees in historically significant places such as the White House. Dean Norton, Director of Horticulture at Mount Vernon, talked about plans for the remaining cloned trees and the significance of planting one at the U.S. Capitol.

DEAN NORTON, DIRECTOR OF HORTICULTURE, MOUNT VERNON
“We can’t really plant one at Mount Vernon yet because we want these trees to have its replacements when the originals trees die. And they are not dead and we are very happy about that. So what better place to plant the first in a significant planting but here on the Capitol of the United States.”

Mr. Norton says the trees will be planted in a nursery for later re-planting at their original location at Mount Vernon.

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