There is an absolutely perfect White Ash growing nearby that I'd like
to clone. A Rooter Pot or layering system is out of the question
because the canopy doesn't start for well nigh 50 feet or more and I'm
not hauling my butt up there more than once. I've googled a bit on
tree cloning but haven't yet found a website that says exactly "how to"
in a manner that gives me a lot of confidence in success. Any cloners
The cloning I used to do involved molecular biology. There is a classic
elementary school science book item describing the cloning of a carrot
from any piece therefrom. It's easier, much easier, to start with the
crown, but any piece will do.
Perhaps you could cut a sliver a few inches long and going through the
bark, cambium, and some living wood. Douse it in rooting hormone and
stick it in a jar of water.
Second suggestion is to cut that sliver out on top and sides, but leave
it attached at the bottom. You might encourage leaf budding at the tip
of the new "branch" you just created. Once that happens, cut your new
branch off the tree and try to get it to grow roots in a jar.
Whatever variation you try, be generous with some sort of anti-fungal
For places to research : you're taking a "cutting", what you want to
do is to "root a cutting". Air layering works more reliably for large
pieces, but you said that's not practical.
Directions on rooting are readily available. For a medium: pearlite is
good, very coarse sand (1/8") is good. You want consistently damp, not
You want some kind of cover to trap humidity, cut off soda bottles, etc.
work. You may need to vent the cover to reduce the total humidity.
If the leaves of the cutting are continuously wet, they will rot. If
there are too many or too few leaves on the cutting, it will fail. If it
gets too dry, it will fail. (Hard to define "too" here.)
Don't disturb the cutting for a month or so - you can break the growing
Rooting many cuttings won't take much longer than trying 2 or 3. If
you do 50 cuttings and 20% survive, you should be happy for a first-time
The powdered rooting hormones are often stale by the time you buy them
at the nursery - the stuff does degrade with time. It's almost worthless
Go to www.wormsway.com, look for "Clonex cloning gel". Buy the small
size. It'll last a year. The gel adheres to the cuttings better than
the powder, and seems to help keep the cuttings from dessicating.
I've rooted 3/4" diameter japanese maple chunks with Clonex, but I do
have some degree of experience.
As a matter of fact, yes. I did a masters degree in tree
biotechnology, and did a good bit of "cloning" - we called it tissue
culture or micropropagation.
As far as your perfect White Ash, if you clone it, you almost
definitely won't get something that looks the same. Environmental
factors have a huge influence on growth form, and though genetics are a
significant factor also, I've dealt with a bunch of clonal trees and
they never look exactly the same. Think about a stand of aspens or
some other tree that spreads via root sprouts - the whole stand may be
clonal (i.e. genetically identical), yet the trees certainly aren't
If you still want a clone of this tree, that's fine, but it may be more
difficult than previous posters have suggested. Some species (i.e.
willow) are extremely easy to root from cuttings - just jam a chunk of
shrub willow branch in the ground and it will probably root and grow
just fine. Also, the carrot mentioned earlier is the classic example
of a species that's easy to establish and multiply in tissue culture.
Some species, however, are extremely difficult to root, even with
perfect conditions and the proper mix of root-inducing hormones. For
example, researchers in a lab I used to work in tried for more than 15
years to propagate American Chestnut in tissue culture, and have just
recently had very limited success.
In conclusion, if you really want a clonal copy of this tree, I'd
recommend getting twigs (if possible), and setting them in small jars
with water and some Root-Tone or some root-inducing hormone product -
check a local nursery or garden center. It will probably have IBA
(Indole-Butyric Acid) in it. You can try sections of bark or stem as
mentioned previously, but I wouldn't make too many holes/gouges in the
trunk of your perfect tree - more avenues for insects, fungi, or
viruses to attack. (Are you anywhere near Emerald Ash Borer-infested
I think the best option would be to collect seeds from your tree - I'm
not familiar with ash specifically, but I'm sure a quick google search
would explain more detail on collecting and growing ash seeds. Seeds
would most likely not be genetically identical (unless your tree can
self-pollinate), but they'd be at least half identical, and they'd most
likely be easier to grow.
I'm the guy who wrote above about taking cuttings. *IGNORE* the
biologists - they're well intentioned, but cuttings aren't the same
as tissue culture.
With a cutting, you have a working matrix of adult-form tissues
that are already growing, you're just keeping them alive by
developing roots on the cutting. They tend to retain their features,
That's why there are commonly available oddities like dwarf white
pines or Kingsville boxwood - someone took a cutting from a sport.
Cuttings aren't hard to do, it's mostly about playing the odds.
If you had to do 100 cuttings to get 10 successes would that
After lots of practice, I have a 95% success rate in general.
Some trees are indeed harder to root, maybe even ash, but play
the odds. It's not rocket science and won't cost much.
Use fresh cloning gels, *not* root hormone from a general nursery.
The stuff is likely to have degraded.
If you want to practice, take a woody shrub in your yard and give
a go. Really, no big effort and no big cost.
Look in a used book store for an older 'Sunset' book - it'll
be cheap and the technology hasn't changed much in the last 50
But do it soon, for most the of northern 1/2 of the US you're at
peak time. Much growth stops in July.
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