Redwood clones take root at Eden Project

A forest of 40 trees cloned from the tallest living plants on Earth was planted at the Eden Project in Cornwall today (14 March).

Coast redwoods planted at Eden Project. Image: Supplied
Coast redwoods planted at Eden Project. Image: Supplied

The grove of coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) could live for 4,000 years and reach nearly 400ft in height. As they grow, they will form an avenue of giants along the main entrance road to Eden.

To coincide with the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week, Eden’s group of 27 apprentices helped plant the trees, alongside the garden's horticulture team, 40 children from nearby Lanlivery CP School and Sir Tim Smit, Eden’s Co-founder.

The planting took place in the week of the 15th anniversary of Eden’s opening, which falls on Thursday (17 March).

Sir Tim Smit said: "It’s very humbling to be planting these coast redwoods in their early years in the knowledge that they will probably still be here in 4,000 years time. This is about the future of Eden and getting young people to embrace horticulture."

Clare Semple, deputy head of Lanlivery CP School, said: "It’s amazing to be part of something with such a long history and it’s really good for the children to be involved in this planting. It’s something that really fits with the outdoor education ethos of our school."

One of the pupils, Loveday Varcoe, ten, said: "I think it’s really good what the Eden Project has done for the environment. Planting these trees is good for the environment and good for nature."

The first sapling in the ground was a clone of the Fieldbrook Stump, the remains of a famous northern Californian redwood which was felled in 1890 when it was around 3,500 years old. It was planted by Lanlivery student Jess Phillips, seven, and Eden Project apprentices Jake Hawke and Rosie Wade.

As part of today’s planting, the 40 pupils made a circle 109ft around, representing the circumference of the Fieldbrook Stump.

If it had not been cut down, the Fieldbrook redwood would likely be the world’s tallest tree. It left a stump 35 feet in diameter, wider than any other known single trunk. Material was taken from basal shoots that grew from the stump to clone the new saplings.

It is identified as the tree reputedly cut by William Waldorf Astor, the American millionaire and British resident, and shipped to the UK as the clincher to win a drunken bet that he could make a table seating 40 from a single cross slice.

The slice was never made into a table, and rests in the garden of Lord Astor’s home Clivedon, now owned by the National Trust. Lord Astor later denied the story with a letter to The Times, threatening to sue anyone who repeated it.

A partnership between the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, and Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA), based in northern Michigan, USA resulted in this historic planting.

The coast redwood trees that were planted were sent over from AATA to Eden as cloned saplings and have been grown on. They grow naturally in Oregon and California so should thrive in Cornwall’s mild, damp climate.

Sir Tim has worked closely with AATA Co-founder and celebrated tree champion David Milarch on the project to establish Europe’s first old-growth redwood forest. A year ago the two men dug in the first sapling to signal the start of the partnership.

David Milarch said: "Tim, the schoolchildren and the Eden apprentices are planting an eternal forest – a first not just for the UK but for Europe.

"This is an unique archive, a living library of genetics that can be utilised for our generation and for hundreds of generations into the future to rebuild and replace what we’ve damaged."

As well as its partnership with Archangel, Eden is aiming to link with 'One Tree Per Child', which aims to have every child planting one tree as part of a primary school activity.

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