400 years new; Liberty Tree: Through genetics, it can live on even though last month's storm dealt original a fatal blow.


THE LIBERTY BELL remains a powerful symbol of American independence in spite of its famous fracture. Maryland's Liberty Tree, another mighty symbol that has suffered a crack, also will survive -- though not in its current form.

Hurricane Floyd delivered a fatal blow to the giant tulip poplar a month ago, accomplishing what the redcoats could not when they cut down sister trees in the 12 other colonies during the American Revolution.

Arborists have concluded that the damage to the already stressed 97-foot tree was too severe, and it will have to come down. St. John's College will hold a ceremony next week in its honor.

But the tree could live on because of genetic technology: Scientists have cloned the tree.

Maryland has given 49 other states Liberty Trees through genetic cloning. Now, to preserve a small piece of one of the state's most treasured natural assets, Maryland must turn to cloning, too.

And where should the new Liberty Tree begin life? Right where the old one stood for the past 400 years.

An Oct. 19 editorial should have said the number of Liberty Trees in the 13 colonies is unknown and that scientists don't know yet whether Maryland's damaged Liberty Tree can be cloned.
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