From every little seed… California’s giant trees cloned to combat climate change

A group of intrepid aborists are cloning California’s giant sequoias and coastal redwoods in an effort to combat climate change. They are scaling sometimes hundreds of feet to clip the youngest branches to be hand-delivered across the country, cloned in a lab and eventually planted in a forest in some other part of the world. “It’s a biological miracle,” said tree climber Jim Clark, firmly back on the ground and holding a green sprig to his lips as if to kiss it. “This piece of tissue … can be rooted, and we have a miniature 3,000-year-old tree.” The cloning expedition to Camp Nelson, a mountain community about 100 miles southeast of Fresno, was led by David Milarch, co-founder of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.

It’s really a race against time. If we start right now, we can go after climate change and reverse it before it’s too late.

Jim Clark

Relying on common sense that he says is being borne out by science, Milarch, 66, believes their size and robustness make them ideal for absorbing greenhouse gases that drive climate change on the planet. He likens them to people who drink and smoke all their lives, yet thrive well into their 90s. Sequoias growing in the Sierra are among the biggest and oldest trees on Earth, some nearly 300 feet tall and up to 3,000 years old. In two decades, he says his nonprofit group has cloned 170 types of trees and planted more than 300,000 of them in seven countries with willing landowners.

It may be a drop in the bucket, but at least somebody’s doing something.

Bill Werner, a horticulture consultant