"There's a widespread recognition that there are certain 'great trees,' and that they're meaningful to our shared history, and to a sense of place," says Bram Gunther, the deputy chief of forestry and horticulture for the Parks Department. "And we should be thinking about preserving those trees just as we would a famous painting in a museum."
In recent years, several organizations have begun "cloning" historic trees, including an effort to preserve specimens from the estates of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and from Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, N.Y.
Last year, Champion Tree Project International, a nonprofit involved in the New York City initiative, collected clippings from the largest – and most ancient – California redwoods. At the time, Champion's David Milarch told reporters that the hope was eventually to create a "genetic library" for future generations.