A group of conservationists began efforts to preserve historical trees planted under the direction of the first U.S. President, George Washington, on his estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
David Milarch and his sons, with the help of volunteers, gathered several branches of thirteen trees planted on the front lawn of the estate to begin the cloning process.
Mr. Milarch and his family own a shade tree business and are involved in the process of cloning trees all over the U.S. They began cloning when they noticed environmental problems were killing their trees. Mr. Milarch said, “My sons came to me and said, ‘Dad why don't we clone those biggest and oldest trees in the world, wouldn't they do better in the city’. So as a request or a challenge from my sons that's actually how I got started".
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow supports the cause of the Milarch family. As a member of the agriculture committee of the U.S. senate she says she has a particular commitment to protect forests, trees and supporting agricultural farmers. “For me to be able to protect them,” she said, “and preserve this important part of our history and heritage means a lot and it is particularly special because it is Michigan people that are doing it".
Dean Norton, director of horticulture at Mount Vernon, explained why re-planting the trees from seedlings have not been successful. "The reason we need to do that is that our deer pressure is so high that young trees are being eaten. They are not allowed to grow and mature," he said. "So older trees, if they die, there is nothing there to replace them.”
The trees include two tulip poplars, two white ash, one hemlock, one white mulberry and seven American hollies. They are more than 200 years old and are threatened by weather, fire, pollution and disease. Already hundreds of others have died.
Bob Scofield, a tourist from California and retired tree specialist, considers the effort an innovative idea. “It would be interesting to see the project develop and is nice to know we are doing things like that in historical sites," he said.
While living at Mount Vernon, President Washington was directly Involved in his plantation and farming operations. Today, hundreds of visitors come to visit his home and admire his vegetable, fruit and botanical gardens.