Tree expert David McMaster points to a 110-foot tall tulip poplar that will be cut down and may be used for cloning with some 25 'historical' trees in Central Park in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. [Agencies]
Squat, homely, dwarfed by the stately oaks and poplars nearby and unnoticed by the tourists passing in horse-drawn carriages, it's a tree that only birds and nut-hungry squirrels could love.
But on Thursday, the 100-year-old European beech on Central Park's Cherry Hill was the center of attention - chosen by New York city officials as the first of 25 "historical" trees to be cloned as part of a plan announced last year to add a million new trees to streets, parks and public spaces over the next decade.
Agriculture students from a Queens high school rode hydraulic-powered tree-trimmers' buckets to upper branches of the 60-foot tree and snipped off 6- to 12-inch sections of new growth, to be sent to a scientific tree nursery in eastern Oregon. If all goes well, the genetic copies will be sent back in two years to New York for replanting.
"We want to break the stereotype of New York as skyscrapers and sidewalks," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benape said. "New York abounds in historical trees."
The target trees include nine different species. All were selected by borough foresters as historical for having existed for at least a century - either as fixtures of the urban landscape or as having special significance to local communities.
City partners in the cloning effort include the Central Park Conservancy, a private group that manages the 840-acre park; Bartlett Tree Experts, a century-old Connecticut-based company that has tree care contracts in New York, 25 other states, Canada, England and Ireland; the nonprofit Tree Fund, and the Coleman Co., a camping equipment maker, whose coolers would be used to ship the cuttings to Oregon.
David McMaster, a Bartlett vice president, said the cloning would target several "Olmsted trees," dating from the creation of Central Park by famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1850s.
Benape said being less than beautiful had no bearing on the European beech tree's potential contribution to a greener Gotham.
"Like the other trees to be cloned, it has withstood the test of time and the indignities of urban life," he said. "These trees as a result tend to be hardier species, inherently disease resistant. They are a great reaffirmation of the importance of nature in New York City - trees so good that people are looking to clone them."