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Plans to Clone
World's Oldest Tree
by Ken Ritter, Associated Press

Group Takes Cuttings,

LAS VEGAS --  A nonprofit group has snipped some cuttings to clone what is believed to be the world's oldest tree, a bristlecone pine they say has grown for 4,767 years on a rugged, wind-swept mountain in eastern California.
    "It is, in fact, the world's oldest-known living tree," said U.S. Forest Service official Larry Payne.  "It has lived at least a millennium longer than any other known tree."
    With the urgency of organ transplant doctors and the guidance of a Forest Service ranger, representatives from Michigan-based Champion Tree Project International hiked to the tree last week, at an elevation of 10,400 feet in the White Mountains on the California-Nevada border.
    "It's healthy," David Milarch said of the tree.  Milarch and his son are the founders of the Champion Tree Project.
    The tree was dubbed Methuselah after scientist Edmund Schulman found it and age-dated it by a core sample in the 1950s.  Although the tree is biblical, the tree is believed to predate Christ by almost 3,000 years.
    "It's gnarly from almost 5,000 years of harsh weather." Milarch said.  "But they got plenty of good material.

The tree is in a portion of the Inyo National Forest east of Bishop.
    Chris Friel, a doctoral student in plant physiology at University of California Davis who is trying to clone the specimens, said, "From the right kind of plant cell you can clone a whole plant.  Friel has begun introducing cells from the plant to a sterile growth medium in a petri dish.
    "Within a year, either I'll have an itty bitty little tree or I won't," Friel said.

David Milarch said the Methuselah tree stands about 55 feet tall, with a misshapen oval trunk measuring about 4.5 feet wide.   He said seeds were collected to grow seedlings that could serve as hosts for cloned grafts.
    Richard Harris, a forest specialist at the University of California Berkeley, said it was possible that the Methuselah tree was the oldest in the world.
    "Generally speaking, the oldest living species are the bristlecones and the sequoias," Harris said, adding the oldest known giant sequoia was 3,200 years old.
    Bragging rights for the oldest living thing on Earth may go to a creosote bush found in 1980 in the desert outside Palm Springs.  It's believed to be 11,700 years old.

Contact: cell: 830.257.8871
                     Jim Rediker - Nurseryman -  Arborist  - TDA Certified

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