If we told you that there was a maple tree that was 200 years old, you might think that it was an impressively old tree. Well, prepare to have your mind blown, because a maple tree believed to be Canada's oldest is actually around 540 years old! It's been named the Comfort Maple Tree, and horticulturists want to carry on the legacy of the oldest tree in Canada through cloning.

Tanya Blankenburg, an instructor curator with the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture, is leading the charge with a group of students to preserve the Comfort Maple's DNA so that it can live on through new seedlings. The original tree, Blankenburg told CBC News, was a seedling itself when Christopher Columbus first landed in North America.

So how does cloning a tree work? The horticulturalists are using a technique called air-layering. This process involves stripping the bark from part of a branch and wrapping it in peat moss that contains hormones to promote growth.

The branches remain on the tree to continue being nourished until they are removed and the trees are planted elsewhere. These trimmings will be potted at a secure facility before being planted on property owned by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Niagara Parks Commission.

The trees will not be marked as being from the Comfort Maple in order to avoid any vandalism or theft when they are properly planted.

"Whatever survives from this project will be split 50/50 among the two agencies and planted at various locations," Renee Bisson, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s manager of community and public relations told Niagara This Week. "We have to map out where those locations will be."

The Comfort Maple's DNA will live on in its cloned seedlings, even as the original tree continues to stand up against storms and being struck by lightning. Pelham Fire Department Chief Bob Lymburner told The Standard that he believes the tree is subject to multiple strikes every year.

Despite it all, the Comfort Maple continues standing, and its legacy will carry on, hopefully for another five centuries.


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