Teeny Haunts: The Tree the Owns Itself

The very idea of a tree legally owning itself captured my attention. The tree gained it independence sometime between 1820 and 1832, courtesy of one William Henry Jackson. He owned the land and was so fond of the tree that he enacted a deed to ensure it would remain standing.

I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree … of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.

Some of this is shrouded in legend. The tree (and the dubious deed) didn’t gain prominence until a front-page article ran in the Athens Weekly Banner on August 12th, 1890.

According to law, this deed would have no legal standing. However the city of Athens has honored the tree and preserved its legal standing.

Genetically Engineered Animals for the Future

Scientists will always tinker. While they mostly seek to improve the world, some scientists stray into Frankenstein category. Now that the genome has been hacked open, also sorts of possibilities pop up, from the useful to the ridiculous.

Say you often can’t find your cat when she wanders around the house at night. Problem solved. Get a glow in the dark cat.

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Yes, it’s true. South Korean scientists meshed a cat’s DNA with a red fluorescent protein. Why did they want glowing kitties? Just because.

Although some of the genetic engineering works around possibility for science’s sake. Not everyone needs a glowing cat. But what about a dinosaur? Look at a modified Umbuku Lizard.

umbukulizard

Those wings aren’t glued on. They were dormant in the lizard’s genes. A little tinkering brought them out. Scientists believe that this lizard is a descendent of the Pterodactyl, which lost its ability to fly some millions of years ago. To date only 6 of these flying Umbuku have been produced and they are kept seperate from the natural Umbuku due the risk of cross breeding.

Some genetic tinkering can produce results we can all use. Consider the fact that nearly all paper comes from wood pulp. However, you have to kill the tree to make the paper. What if you didn’t? Trees produce leaves every season. A Swiss-based company saw the possibilities. They engineered a tree whose leaves look like sheets of paper. That’s right. Just pluck a sheet and get writing. Bonus, the tree lives.

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Up to this point, scientists have combined like items (plant with plant or animal with animal). Here comes the fern spider.

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This is one of the first animal/plant hybrids. The Italian Wolf spider (Lycosa tarantula) was crossed with a ponga fern (Cyathea dealbata) to test the survival rates of creatures with camouflage.

Finally, this tinkering can be simply for the purpose of beauty.

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The Japanese company, Suntory, managed to create a blue rose called “Applause.” Blue roses don’t exist in nature. Many horticulturalists strive for this coveted goal. The company mixed rose genes (Old Garden ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’) with a delphinidin-producing gene from a pansy.

The future certainly looks strange. I don’t know how I’ll use my glowing cat, but at least I can pull a sheet of paper from my tree. Alas, if only it grew money.
Tim Kane