Van Cortlandt Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Return Of The Clones!

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

Clones of Two Historic Trees Planted in Van Cortlandt Park

On Thursday, May 1, NYC Parks, the New York Tree Trust, and MillionTreesNYC joined the TREE Fund, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, Bartlett Tree Experts, Schichtels Nursery Oregon and John Bowne High School to plant clones from two historic "mother" trees in Van Cortlandt Park.

The white ash (Fraxinus americana) and crack willow (Salix fragilis) saplings represent two of eleven different tree species from 25 trees of historical and environmental significance that have been cloned as part of an initiative to preserve and protect New York City's historic trees.

"With advances in technology, urban tree care today includes not only the protection of existing tree canopy but the preservation of genetic material of culturally and environmentally significant trees," said First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. "This exciting project ensures that many of our most beloved trees in New York City, including historic White Ash, London Plane, Horse Chestnut, and Crack Willow, will be enjoyed by generations of New Yorkers to come."

"One of Bartlett Tree Experts' guiding principles has been the conservation of historic trees," says David T. McMaster, a Vice President at the company. "The generosity of our Chairman Robert A. Bartlett, Jr. enables us to help preserve the remaining ancient trees in New York City's parks."

The "mother" trees from which the saplings were cloned are each well over 100 years old and are exceptionally tall for their species. The white ash, which stands at the southeast corner of the Van Cortlandt Park Parade Ground, is approximately 85 feet tall and has a diameter of 54 inches. White ash are increasingly threatened by the spread of Emerald Ash Borer in New York State, which makes the preservation of this tree's genetic material particularly important. The crack willow, which grows in the northeast corner of Van Cortlandt Park, is approximately 110 feet tall and has two main leaders with diameters of 37 and 54 inches. Crack willows were first imported by the British during colonial times for making charcoal during the manufacture of gunpowder.

The ash and willow saplings, which are approximately six feet in height, will be planted on the south end of the Van Cortlandt Park parade ground. Protective fencing will be installed around each tree. NYC Parks, the New York Tree Trust, and Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy will provide high-level care and management of the saplings, ensuring the longevity and health of these truly Great Trees.

About the "Great Tree" Clone Program:

In January 2008, NYC Parks joined the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund, Bartlett Tree Experts, the New York Restoration Project, and students from John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens, to take cuttings from the canopy of a European Beech in Central Park. Over the course of the next week, cuttings were taken from dozens of trees of historical significance throughout the five boroughs, representing eleven different tree species. Many of these trees were more than 100 years old and stood in public parks and along neighborhood streets.

The tree cuttings were shipped to Schichtels Nursery Oregon, in Oregon, where ten genetically identical clones of each original tree were grown and cared for. With the support of the TREE Fund, students at John Bowne High School monitored the growing process of the tree clones throughout the course of the project as part of their new agriculture curriculum. Cloned tree species include: London Plane, Horse Chestnut, European Beech, Crab Apple, European Hornbeam, White Ash, Crack Willow, Persian Parrotia, Manchurian Linden, English Elm, and Japanese Maple.

Now, just over six years later, the cloned saplings stand between two and six feet tall. Plantings will take place each spring over the next five years, adding approximately 50 cloned saplings to parks in all five boroughs. The trees will serve as preservation ambassadors, reminding New Yorkers of the natural diversity that exists around them.


"If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame

the wind for revealing them to the trees."

Kahlil Gibran

(1883 - 1931)

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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