Lady Liberty is a 2,000-year-old cypress tree in Seminole County's Big Tree Park. It has lived for a very long time but there's no guarantee of the tree's continued longevity so officials are turning to cloning to give it a breath of life.

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a group from Michigan intent on propagating the world's most important trees, sent three representatives Monday to gather samples from the Lady Liberty. The team of arborists was provided with the important culture required for the cloning process. The ancient cypress tree is under no immediate threat but the fate of its older, larger, better-known sibling, the Senator, is a harsh reminder that dangers are out there.

The Senator was 3,500 years old and was burned in 2012 by arsonists. Fortunately, it was cloned years ago, allowing it to stand tall today at almost 50 feet at the entrance of the Big Tree Park.

Almost 90 feet in height, with a trunk 10 feet thick, it was not easy to climb the Lady Liberty to gather samples. The tree in itself was an obstacle to the climbers but Andy Kittsley, Jim Clark and Jake Milarch also faced other challenges in the form of bees.

"I'm good," said Clark each time he was stung, continuing up the cypress tree.

The climbers got to the top of the Lady Liberty and snipped its thin branches, which will be sent to a cloning laboratory in Michigan after being packed in ice.

Archangel Ancient Tree Archive specializes in a cloning technique that works by coaxing tree tissues to develop their own roots. It has been applied to 150 species and 90 percent of cloning projects have resulted in trees that were replanted successfully.

Hopefully cloning the Lady Liberty is just as successful since the climbers commented that there wasn't a lot of new growth on the tree's crown, meaning that it might not have a lot of years left. The tree is very old, after all, and the changing climate is not exactly producing ideal conditions for it to keep growing.

According to David Milarch, head of Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, the Lady Liberty "won't be here in another five years."

Photo: Sharon Mollerus | Flickr

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