By Don Ford

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A scientific breakthrough is allowing scientists to bring back ancient trees once thought to be lost forever, planting the seeds for those ancient redwoods in San Francisco’s Presidio.

Working with the Presidio Trust, the non-profit research firm Archangel has perfected the technique of extracting DNA from those long lost trees.

Some of those saplings will be planted on a hillside near the Presidio parade grounds. The soil is carefully prepared, tilled and fertilized and an irrigation system has almost been completed.

These are not your normal coastal redwood tree saplings. The pure DNA clones were created in a laboratory.

“It’s like you’re keeping the same tree alive eternally,” said Joe Sandri, a member of the Board of Directors for Archangel.

The Fieldbrook Redwood, chopped down in 1890, was believed to be one of the largest trees in North America. 35 feet in diameter and  once rising to more than 400 feet tall, there was nothing left of the 3,000-years-old giant but a rotting stump until Archangel cloned it’s DNA.

“One hundred percent of the DNA through this cloning process.” said Sandri.

The saplings are exact copies and the Presidio Trust is replanting 75 clones. Steve Duffy, a Redwood arborist for the Presidio, was excited for the new additions.

“This brings to the Presidio ancient trees, the likes of which we just don’t have in the park,” said Duffy.

Duffy said the expected rainy weather coming this weekend is perfect for these special trees to start a new life.

Comments (5)
  1. Andie Creager says:

    This is very interesting that scientists have cloned such an important and grand tree. It is such a wonder what scientists can do with genes and genetic engineering. Redwood trees have been important to the area and the people of the area for centuries. Pre-contact, the aboriginal people used land management (such as prescribed burning) to maintain important resources and native plants. Redwood trees were one of these important resources and native species that they managed; they were a culturally significant species to the native people of the area because they were used for so many things (construction materials, transportation, etc). Pre-contact, people lived in and worked with nature. People tried to understand life cycles and tried to read the natural signs that the environment displays. Through the centuries of living and working with nature, different communities have built their own traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) regarding the natural world around them. I think it is important to consult these people when making environmental changes. However, in 1890, when they chopped down this majestic tree, native people were not consulted. But that’s in the past. Now we can look forward to having 75 wonderful new redwood trees growing in the Presidio and helping with carbon sequestration and the carbon footprint of the people in San Francisco, CA and surrounding areas. I love that the Presidio utilized modern day science to bring the genes of this specific native tree back and mitigate impacts on the environment (environmental mitigation). These trees have been utilized for ecotourism for decades in parks nearby (Muir Woods and Redwood Forest). Maybe one day these trees will also act as an ecotourism opportunity for the area.