A tree planted by naturalist John Muir is in trouble, and Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has been called in to preserve its genetics. In about 1898, John Muir took a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and brought back a Giant Sequoia sapling, which he planted near his family farmhouse in Martinez, CA.
UPDATE: The cloning was a success. Find out more here.
Muir planted the tree where the famed naturalist and his family lived and maintained a family orchard business from the 1880’s until his death in 1914. He and his family are buried in a family plot near the family house. The site later became the John Muir National Historic Site in 1962.
The tree Muir planted, a Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia) is now about 115 years old and 70 feet tall and is considered one of the most significant biotic cultural resources on the site. Unfortunately, the tree, like most of its species in the San Francisco Bay area, is infected with the fungus Botryosphaeria dothidea, a vascular disease that causes branches and tips to die. The tree has been presumably dealing with the disease for decades.
Keith Park is the horticulturalist & preservation arborist at the site. “I do what I can to keep it healthy and as non-stressed as I can,” said Park, “hoping to keep it alive for years to come.”
Park said that in an effort to clone the tree they have tried to root cuttings from the shoot tips but have had no success. He heard about Archangel’s success at cloning ancient trees from a colleague, and decided to reach out for help. “I thought if anybody could propagate our cherished Giant Sequoia, it would be David Milarch,” remarked Mr.Park.
In May of this year, Keith Park spoke with the team at Archangel to learn what kind of cuttings were required for the propagation. He then climbed toward the top of the Giant Sequoia on the Muir site to collect the proper material. Archangel contacted the Contra Costa department of agriculture and secured an Inspection Certificate so that the cuttings could legally be shipped back to the Archangel propagation facility in Copemish, MI.
Upon arrival in Michigan, the cuttings were treated with a mix of growth hormones and anti-fungal solutions that have successfully been used on the past on other ancient Giant Sequoias, and inserted them into a planting medium. The trays of cuttings are now housed in the Archangel growing facility, where they will be monitored for growth.
Now the waiting game begins. Roots are expected to begin to grow on the cuttings in about six months time. If successful, the new trees will be transferred to larger pots and grown in the Archangel greenhouse facilities to a sufficient size for replanting outdoors in safe havens so the genetics from John Muir’s Giant Sequoia can live on, even if the original tree should perish.
John Muir was America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. He is one of California’s most important historical personalities. He has been called “The Father of our National Parks,” and is founder of the Sierra Club. His words and deeds helped inspire President Theodore Roosevelt’s innovative conservation programs, including establishing the first National Monuments by Presidential Proclamation, and Yosemite National Park by congressional action. A photo of Muir and Roosevelt is at the top of this page.
The John Muir National Historic Site preserves the 14-room Italianate Victorian mansion where John Muir and his family lived. The site is nearby a 325 acre tract of native oak woodlands and grasslands historically owned by the Muir family. Find out more about the John Muir National Historic Site here.
Archangel Ancient Tree Archive is grateful to Keith Park and the John Muir National Historic Site for reaching out and affording the opportunity to share what has been learned by cloning the largest, oldest, and most iconic trees on Earth.