Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 5 News List

US bombing Survivor Tree cloned

AP, OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma

The Survivor Tree, a 100-year-old American elm, stands as a symbol of hope after the deadly 1995 bombing to visitors at the Oklahoma City National Memorial in Oklahoma on Friday.

Photo: AP

Science and technology are helping Oklahoma City to sustain the DNA — and the spirit — of a tree that has symbolized hope in the 24 years since the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in US history shook the city to its core.

As part of an annual remembrance of the bombing, civic leaders and state officials on Friday transplanted a tree that was cloned from a scarred American elm that lived through the blast that leveled half of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

The Survivor Tree features prominently at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, overlooking 168 chairs that represent those killed. The intent of the DNA work is that the younger elm would replace the nearly 100-year-old Survivor Tree after it eventually dies.

“While we hope that the tree lives forever, trees are like us,” memorial executive director Kari Watkins said.

The surviving tree’s eventual replacement was cloned by taking the rootstock of a young tree that sprouted from a Survivor Tree seed. Nursery workers then grafted a cutting of the original tree onto the newer plant’s roots.

The new tree was moved from a local yard to a specially designed area in a future park about 1.6km south of the original tree.

Machinery can move a tree with a mass of roots measuring 7.6m and haul it away to be replanted, state forester Mark Bays said.

No one is sure when that might need to happen at the bombing memorial, but technology is only expected to get better.

“All living things come and pass. We hope it’s an extended period of time before that happens to this one,” Bays said, adding that American elms can live up to 150 years in forests.

“But that’s, I think, one of the significant things of this. We can now protect and observe the genetics of this actual tree, and its genetics will outlive everybody,” he said.

Bays was part of a team that helped build a stone elevated viewing area around the Survivor Tree, whose leaves reach to the third-story windows of an interactive museum above the memorial.

The viewing platform is on piers to allow the surrounding soil to breath. The stones can easily be removed when the new tree needs to be replanted there.

For now, the cherished tree looks healthy — although still battered — on the highest point of the memorial.

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