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A tree with friends in high place
Idaho nursery looks to a 139-year-old specimen for answers.

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Beneath it are a few small whitebarks struggling to stretch skyward, including a 4-foot stick bent to the shape of a plumber's elbow pipe by snow or the memory of a downed log.

Whether No. 6580 really is elite will take a few years to sort out through seedlings' exposure to disease. In the meantime, because the nursery initially thought it was in rescue mode for a doomed tree's offspring, Buermeyer sent 50 cuttings for grafting onto roots that will give them a few years' jump toward cone production, which usually takes a seedling several decades to achieve.

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After Foushee's tests, the regional geneticist will bestow elite status on parent trees in the next year or so, then request grafts from them for planting in a seed orchard near Bozeman, Mont.

Tree No. 6580's expedited progeny, whether elite or not, will go to the orchard sooner and should produce seeds to repopulate Jackson Hole in about 20 years.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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