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Puffin Fights to Commemorate Historic Oak
  
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The Record: Bough to history



article via northjersey.com

DAYS MAY be numbered for a large, historic red oak that has deep roots in Teaneck's past, but if science is any indication, and a little luck holds, the tree may live on as more than memory. Even as its likely demise is being calculated — Bergen County is planning to chop it down, due to decay and significant loss of its root system — a cohort of arborists, advocates and tree experts are exploring options for cloning the giant tree that holds so much history.

As Staff Writer Denisa R. Superville reports, there is a chance to take cuttings from the oak and use them to produce genetically identical copies. This is hopeful news for tree lovers in Teaneck and elsewhere. Such cloning has taken place successfully through the years, though experts agree that matching the 250-year-old northern red oak might be more challenging because the plant group in general has proved difficult to clone in the past.

Nevertheless, at a time when too many of our old trees are being thoughtlessly lost, we applaud efforts, including those from the Puffin Foundation, to keep the red oak alive and to save its identity in the township. The tree's residence at Cedar Lane and Palisade Avenue predates the American Revolution. Over the years many people have fought to save it from developers, and an ordinance earlier this year gave the tree official historical status.

"Nobody wants this tree to go down," said Todd Mastrobuoni, a certified tree expert, master arborist and tree risk assessor, who suggested cloning it. "And at least, if we can come up with something — that it's not a total end to it — it will be worth the time and effort."

Jason Grabosky, an associate professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, who was contacted by the Puffin Foundation, said three methods of cloning are under consideration: taking terminal cuttings from the tree and using growth hormones to initiate rooting; taking small branches and storing them in an environment with adequate humidity, in the hope they will eventually grow shoots; and using the sprouts that will be generated once the tree is cut down.

The odds, decidedly, are not good. And yet there are enough cloning successes, not only in New Jersey, but even with the famous cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, to bring hope. The ancient oak has proved a hearty soldier in Teaneck for more than 250 years. Here's hoping its offspring follows suit.