We utilize a variety of propagation techniques to capture the genetic traits of the old growth trees we collect. Depending on the species we may try vegetative propagation, grafting, micropropagation or root cuttings.
The method of producing genetically identical plants from a single parent plant. The resulting plant is a clone, meaning it has 100% of the same DNA as the plant from which it was propagated. Why do this instead of collect the seeds? We want to capture the exact genetic traits of the parent tree. When you collect a seed from a tree, you may only get 50% of the genes, since it could have been pollinated by another tree.
Since the dawn of agriculture, people have chosen to grow plants in order to select desired traits and characteristics. As an example, for flowers or fruit, one selects for color, fragrance or taste, and for timber, straight grain and fast growth. We at Archangel select trees for longevity, survivability, and their natural abilities to benefit and repair the environment. If we don’t archive these ancient survivors now, they won’t be available for scientific study in the future.
With each new species we are mapping the propagation process to be able to produce clones from the parent tree. Because these trees are so old and so special, they create a unique set of challenges throughout the propagation process. It often takes years of trial and error to perfect techniques that stimulate these old-forest giants to regenerate. We have developed a state-of-the-art growing facility designed specifically to overcome these challenges and create a roadmap for growing some of these trees in quantity.
Most trees aren’t propagated when they are very old, so this presents a challenge to us. Propagating from juvenile material is typically much easier. A successful initial propagation trial for us yields a 3-4% success rate. For a traditional nursery, this 96-97% loss would not be practical, whereas for us, it’s an exciting win. We have a standing joke at our lab in Michigan that propagation is the art of not killing a plant the same way twice.
Propagation in an ongoing activity in our labs in Copemish, Michigan. Some recent breakthroughs and notable efforts are outlined below.