Propagation of the world’s most important old growth trees before they are gone is a big part of the AATA mission
Success to Date
Archangel’s early experimentation with propagation led to scientific success in cloning the oldest and largest trees in existence. Prior to AATA’s work, the scientific community believed that several thousand year old trees could not be cloned through propagation and were no longer viable for impacting climate change.
AATA proved it was possible and these ‘best of the best’ trees remain critical to the protection of our planet. Some of this work was funded by a grant from the National Tree Trust, some from private donors.
AATA has developed a micro-propagation system for replicating old growth genetics that can be shared with partner facilities in other countries to produce literally millions of champion trees for reforestation globally.
Nurturing and growth of the clones into saplings. The Copemish, Michigan warehouse now houses thousands of these cloned trees in various stages of development. Each has the exact DNA of the parent “champion” tree. From micro-propagated rooted cuttings to saplings up to six feet tall, these are rapidly maturing trees and are ready for planting. This stage is completely funded by private gifts.
To carry on the success of AATA, your gift will help us achieve the following Propagation goals over the next three years:
- Expansion and renovation of the Copemish facility to include additional propagation technology and capacity, as well as expanded room for maturing trees.
- Duplicate propagation facilities on the U.S. West Coast and countries around the world, beginning with a facility in the United Kingdom with an existing interested partner.
- Development of an infrastructure in the Copemish office to support scientific, technical, outreach, and fundraising activities.
These Next Steps will require additional private funding building towards the establishment of an endowment fund.
Explore our approach to propagation
What is Propagation?
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.
Why clone these Champion Trees?
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.
Genetic samples of a 2,000 year old bald cypress tree in Florida were collected today by the non-profit group Archangel.read more
Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has successfully cloned John Muir’s beloved giant sequoia. Approximately 400 cuttings from the original tree were sent to Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in April 2013. Since then, the staff has been hard at work trying to save this living connection to John Muir.read more
Archangel has been tapped to propagate a tree planted in about 1898 by naturalist John Muir in order to save its genetics. The Giant Sequoia, like so many in the San Francisco Bay area, has been afflicted with a vascular fungus.read more
We are honored to have such a supportive article written about our recent efforts by the blog, Out of the Fog: Emerging Science from California’s Central Coast.read more