Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists To Examine DNA Of George Washington Trees

Date:
February 8, 2002
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
The DNA collected from 13 trees at Mount Vernon, planted under George Washington's supervision, will be profiled and cataloged as the first step in the creation of a genetic database for specific ornamental trees.

MOUNT VERNON, Va., — The DNA collected from 13 trees at Mount Vernon, planted under George Washington's supervision, will be profiled and cataloged as the first step in the creation of a genetic database for specific ornamental trees.

While the human genome has been detailed in a worldwide effort by thousands of scientists, nothing similar has been done with trees, noted J. Dean Norton, director of horticulture at Mount Vernon. Norton has enlisted the aid of Virginia Tech and the USDA Forest Service's National Forest Genetic Electrophoresis Laboratory in Placerville, Calif., to use the Washington Trees as the beginnings of in-depth research into the genetics of a number of important tree species.

"This will be the start of a genetic database of these trees," said Norton. "George Washington was always experimenting, trying new ways of growing his crops. I think it's great that this 18th century site can still take the lead in research."

The 13 Washington Trees, the only trees now living that are known to have been planted at Washington's direction, are seven American Holly, one Canadian Hemlock, two Tulip Poplar, two White Ash, and one White Mulberry. Samples collected from 17 other trees of the same species at Mount Vernon and the surrounding area will also be evaluated in the project.

Norton contacted M.A. Saghai Maroof, a plant geneticist at Virginia Tech and an expert in the analysis of the DNA of plants, to help with the project.

"The genetic structure of plants are similar, but there are unique challenges in working with different types of plants," said Saghai Maroof. "My expertise is in discovering genes that provide disease resistance in agricultural crops. For this project, it was important to bring in a laboratory with the capacity and the expertise to deal with DNA of trees."

Saghai Maroof contacted the Forest Service laboratory.

Valerie Hipkins, director of the National Forest Genetic Electrophoresis Laboratory, said she was excited to be involved in the Washington Trees project.

"This facility provides molecular genetic information for the evaluation and protection of the genetic resource represented by our nation's trees," she said. "We will be doing DNA 'profiling,' which will be similar to the type of work most people are familiar with in criminal cases, or paternity cases, and the like. With people there is a tremendous database of information, so we are able to match DNA to an individual with a great degree of accuracy. There is no similar database for trees. This to a very great extent is new; we'll be breaking new ground."

The first scheduled collection of cutting by horticulturists from Mount Vernon is set for Feb. 18 while the trees are in a dormant stage. Additional cuttings will be collected in the late spring or summer when the deciduous trees are in leaf. The cuttings will be express-shipped to the Forest Service laboratory in California, where scientists will immediately begin the process of extracting DNA for detailed analysis.

According to Hipkins, each sample’s genetic markers will be generated at multiple locations along the string of genetic information thought to show variation within a species. This information can be used to identify a sample as coming from a particular individual. The lab will produce a bar-code like pattern for each individual using fingerprinting techniques based on polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, techniques. The laboratory procedures will take weeks to conduct. Hipkins expects to be able to provide a report on the lab's findings by the end of the summer.

Those findings will be important to Norton not just because of their intrinsic scientific value. Being able to identify individual trees – especially the Washington Trees – solves another problem for him.

Those 13 historically important trees are nearing the ends of their normal expected life spans. Last summer, cuttings were taken for rooting, and buds gathered for grafting from the trees to produce genetically identical clones. Once those duplicates are established, Mount Vernon will be able to plant them on the Estate, preserving them for future use on the grounds and for other horticultural endeavors.

The genetic profiles determined by the Forest Service's laboratory will be used to authenticate clones of these historically important individual trees, ensuring they will be recognized and protected in the future, Norton said.

He acknowledges that the eventual establishment of a database of genetic information may have a broader significance in the conservation of trees in the future. In this, the Washington trees will play an important role.

"What better trees to serve as the foundation of this database," he asked. "This type of genetic research is the path to the future. Who better to lead the way than the Father of Our Country, George Washington?"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Scientists To Examine DNA Of George Washington Trees." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020207075217.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2002, February 8). Scientists To Examine DNA Of George Washington Trees. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020207075217.htm
Virginia Tech. "Scientists To Examine DNA Of George Washington Trees." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020207075217.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins