Planting Ancient Tree Clones for Earth Day


A nonprofit group plans to reforest the planet with clones of the most ancient and iconic trees.

David Milarch, along with his sons Jared and Jake, have been crisscrossing the US in search of “champion” trees, which have survived and thrived for hundreds and even thousands of years, since they first became concerned with the condition of the world’s forests in the early 1990s. The trio, who own a nursery in the village of Copemish, Michigan, founded the nonprofit group Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, whose goal is to reforest the planet with clones from the world’s biggest and oldest trees. David Milarch told the Associated Press, “This is a first step toward mass production. We need to reforest the planet; it’s imperative. To do that, it just makes sense to use the largest, oldest, most iconic trees that ever lived.”

There are different opinions in the scientific community as to whether it is “superior genes” or just pure luck that has allowed certain trees to survive for millennia,  but Archangel is “out to prove the doubters wrong.” They have developed several different methods of cloning from cuttings, and the specimens are cared for in labs until they are deemed large enough to survive transportation and planting. They have been focusing on ancient sequoias and redwoods in recent years because research has shown both of these species to be “best suited to absorb massive volumes of carbon dioxide.” Jared Milarch, the Executive Director of Archangel, said,  “If we get enough of these trees out there, we’ll make a difference.” The group currently has an inventory of several thousand clones that were generated from clippings taken from over 70 redwoods and sequoias over the last 20 years.

For Earth Day 2013, reports that the group is planting over two dozen clones at nine locations in seven different countries—Germany, Ireland, Wales, England, New Zealand, Australia and the United States (California and Oregon)—to ensure the trees’ long-term survival in the face of climate change.

The challenge now, according to Jared, is to find places to plan the trees, “people to nurture them and money to continue the project.” Archangel is funded through donations only, and does not charge for the clones. However, recipients of the clones do have to pledge to care for the trees properly.

Photo: michael.balint/Flickr

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About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    Very sweet and touching. It’s generally good for humanity’s long-term survival to plant more trees. I got no problem with that.

    What I DO have a problem with is this incredibly tree-centric (arborist?) view of what nature is “supposed to be like,” this association of trees with nature, as if a forest is the most natural landscape and we can “return to nature” by planting more trees. Are we “replanting” trees in places that haven’t had any trees for thousands of years? Without humans around, the planet would NOT be one giant forest. Nature does not love trees any more than any other species of life. This close association between forest and wilderness, in contrast to civilization and humans, is an especially western European construct — see all the fairy tales about witches living in the woods. In this case, it sounds very provincial — not every part of the world has “ancient forest” like western Oregon and Northern California.

    It’s just one more symptom of what’s wrong with the “green” bandwagon. Green is not always the optimally sustainable color for every landscape. In a lot of places like Phoenix and L.A., there may in fact be too much green space, and a better use of water would mean a lot more brown spaces. Sometimes the worst thing you could do is to try to make the land green. Please don’t make Antarctica green. There’s already enough problems with the ice caps.

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