Newport Tree Conservancy: The famous 1835 Redwood beech tree has been successfully cloned

Chris Electric

The Newport Tree Conservancy has announced that their student interns from The Newport Project and their staff will be bringing 3 grafted (cloned) Redwood Beech seedlings to visit the parent tree at the Redwood Library next week.  

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HEY, @theredwoodlibrary, WE’VE GOT HUGE NEWS!! What are we looking at? Your 1835 Fernleaf beech, successfully cloned via grafting! It’s not the end of the story for this tiny guy…. it will be five years or more before, fingers crossed, he’s big enough to be planted in his forever home in a Newport park or arboretum.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣In the second photo, you can see evidence of the graft union “taking” — a bubbling yellow callous of parenchyma cells developing around the union is the signal that healing is taking place. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣Grafting is an ancient cloning method that has been used for thousands of years.⁣ But the complex molecular mechanisms of this intricate process are still largely a mystery. So little time, so much science still to be done!⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣JOIN US AT OUR OPEN HOUSE ON MAY 29 @ the Heritage Tree Center at Rogers High School to see our awesome array of over 100 species of trees in person and meet the students and teachers (hey there Nick, Kristyn, Tricia, Bethany & Nancy!) that make it all possible.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ @thenewportproject #heritagetrees #heritagetreecenter #newporttreeconservancy #theredwoodlibrary #redwoodlibrary #trees #grafting #fagussylvaticaasplenifolia #Fernleafbeech #newportri #newportdailynews #newportthisweek #sothebysnewport #bartletttreeexperts #thenewportproject #livinghistory #rogershighschool #vbcf #vanbeurencharitablefoundation #princecharitabletrusts #princetrusts #champlinfoundation #newportcountyfund #rhodeislandfoundation #rif #rifoundation #rhodeislandhistory #1772foundation #rhodeisland #Treescience

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On Monday, June 10th, students will tour the Redwood Library followed by a photo-op outside with the students, Newport Tree Conservancy staff, and the 1835 Redwood beech tree.

As noted below, grafting mature trees (particularly one as old as this Fernleaf beech) is not easy and not always successful. Their staff and Dr. Michael Dirr’s professional propagation team, for example, have tried over two winters to graft/clone the Merrillton Hornbeam and have not yet been successful.  

From the Newport Tree Conservancy;

The famous 1835 Redwood beech tree has been successfully cloned!
At the Heritage Tree Center at Rogers High School, we are working to propagate some of Rhode Island’s most unique, historic and at-risk heritage trees. 

Cloning an aging tree through grafting is not always easy (in fact, we have had multiple failed attempts, as have our professional partners who are also working to clone several Newport heritage trees). So we are extremely pleased to announce that several grafts of the Redwood Library’s famous Fernleaf beech have successfully “taken”.

Arnold Arboretum Director Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927) called this tree “the finest of its kind in America.” The beech was brought to the United States in 1835 by Robert Johnston (1783-1839) who carried the specimen along on an Atlantic crossing. 

Mr. Johnston was a Scotsman — born in Jamaica, and living in Newport. Johnston would return often to his birthplace to manage the family’s plantations. His beech tree was planted in Newport just one year after slavery was abolished in Jamaica along with the rest of the British Empire. This incredible tree is a reminder that our trees carry the living history of our city—both good and bad—forward into our future, as much as our most impressive preserved architecture.Mr. Johnston’s interest in sylviculture was not unusual in Newport. Many of the colony’s earliest community members brought with them the English tradition of experimental horticulture mixed with lifelong exposure to exotic tropical flora. A 1764 letter by the British governor of Granada clearly speaks of a community remarkably steeped in the cultivated world:

“The roads of the Island are bordered with a variety of ornamental trees; nearly every farm has its orchard of engrafted trees of every description, suited to the climate. The whole Island is of an excellent soil, and under the highest state of cultivation. In the vicinity of the Town are several fine gardens…their greenhouses and hot houses producing the fruits and plants of every clime.”  Blaskowitz Magazine, describing pre-revolutionary Newport and Aquidneck Island, as quoted in Gardens of Colony and State (New York, 1931).

Our staff and horticultural interns (students from The Newport Project at Rogers H.S.) are helping write the newest chapter of Newport’s fascinating horticultural history. In the past, Newporters planted for the excitement of showcasing new species arriving in America from all over the world. Today, we are replanting an aging urban forest, fighting climate change, responding to the ongoing extinction event in our region and across the globe… and building a true arboretum across all four corners of our city. 

More info on the Heritage Tree Center @ Rogers H.S.

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