Mount Vernon to be replanted with champion trees

Dean Norton, horticulturist George Washington's Mount Vernon, has announced plans to reforest the grounds consistent with the original plans that Washington drew up for a healthy forest around his Potomac River home.


Many of the old trees at Mount Vernon are dying of old age and various stresses. More than 70 have died over the past century. Only 13 of the trees planted under Washington's direction are left.


Mount Vernon will be reforested with clones, of "champion" trees, the largest and often the oldest living specimens of a species. The clones are made the old-fashioned way, by grafting buds from the champion trees onto the stocks of young related trees.


George Cates, head of the National Tree Trust, recruited the Champion Tree Project to fill Mount Vernon's 200 acres of forest. Over the next 10 years, the project will deliver 100 sapling clones annually to Norton, who plans to use fencing to guard them from the deer overrunning the grounds. As many as 14 different species will appear in a filled-out forest, Norton says.


"Champion tree clones won't necessarily grow up to be the same size as the originals," says David Milarch, founder of the Champion Tree Project in Copemish, Mich. "But they do have the genetic potential to grow to the size of their parents."


As a special project, Milarch and sons Jared and Jacob have offered to clone the 13 trees still lining Mount Vernon's bowling green, sole survivors of the original landscape plan. The pair specialize in tree projects. They're planning to offer a clone of the 295-foot-high National Champion Texas Live Oak to President Bush as a belated Father's Day gift to his father, a noted supporter of the National Tree Trust.

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