Cloning may not bring back the dinosaurs, but it could put the perfect Christmas tree in your living room year after year. Kurt Zoglauer, a biologist at Berlin's Humboldt University, is working to genetically engineer the delicate Nordmann Fir, a popular evergreen native to the mountains east and west of the Black Sea.
Why clone the Nordmann? The tree, beautiful when plush, is notoriously difficult to grow naturally. By the time they reach maturity after 10 to 14 years, roughly 40 percent of Nordmann Firs are discarded because they end up the wrong shade of green or have their growth stunted by frost. If perfect Nordmanns could be cloned, it would hugely reduce holiday-related waste. Remember, Americans alone purchase millions of freshly cut Christmas trees every year.
Zoglauer, whose project is sponsored by the German government, is researching new techniques that would allow for the mass cloning of perfectly symmetrical and robust trees, which would be copied from a few particularly choice specimens. Zoglauer says the hardier trees should be ready to go by 2016. That's great, says Sean Buckley at Engadget, though quite honestly I'd prefer Charlie Brown's "charming twig" — imperfections and all. (Via the Associated Press)