A lonely stump now reminds residents of 34th Street in Astoria of the spot where their beloved 100-year-old tree used to stand. The Parks Department cut down the massive American Elm in March after it began showing signs of decay. Although the tree has been gone for months, there is a chance the nabe could have it back – in a way. An arborist has stepped in to try to regrow the tree from cuttings salvaged by a sentimental local.
Most gardeners know that you can clone a plant by cultivating a clipping, often just from one leaf. The same principle can work for trees. Anna Jutis may not have realized that when she rescued 15 to 20 cuttings, including a section of a large branch, when the tree was felled. Jutis, who has lived on the block for 40 years, placed the cuttings in her backyard and was soon surprised to see that the branch had sprouted new growth. A neighbor reached out to arborist David McMaster of Bartlett Tree Experts, who picked up the cuttings earlier this week.
McMaster will enlist assistance from students in the agriculture program at John Bowne High School in Flushing. In the school’s greenhouse, they will try to get the cuttings to grow roots by dipping them in a “root-generating hormone” and planting them in perlite and water. McMaster hasn’t personally cloned an American Elm, but says they are known for having a high success rate. He thinks that, since the tree was cut down in March when it was preparing for new growth, its odds are even better. If successful, the clone would need about six to eight years to grow before it would be ready to return to its old stomping, err, rooting grounds on 34th Street.
Images via DNAInfo