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From a rare Florida tree, genes to regrow forest of ancient giants

An experiment in regrowing forests of the world's oldest trees led environmentalists this week to climb a nine-story tall, 2,000-year-old cypress in central Florida known as Lady Liberty.

After plucking cuttings from her crown, climbers packed them on ice and shipped the specimens overnight to the nonprofit Archangel Ancient Tree Archive's nursery in northern Michigan.

Organizers hope to root the clippings to grow genetically identical trees that will be replanted elsewhere in Florida in an effort to grow a new forest of giant cypresses.

The organization is engaged in similar projects in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Ireland and England to preserve the offspring of the best surviving specimens of ancient trees.

"If you ask any of us why we're doing it, it's for our grandchildren," said David Milarch, co-founder of the group, which aims to build new forests of 200 clones and younger trees to promote cross-pollination and help combat global warming.

He said 98 percent of the United State's "old growth forest," or natural forest which has survived at least 120 years, has been destroyed.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016