But there was one thing blocking his dream of sending clones back to China. Because of the threat of spreading various elm diseases, China prohibited the importation of any elms. So trees grown in a nursery from cuttings wouldn't pass the test.
Karnosky returned to his lab with a determination to overcome that obstacle. Using tissue culture from leaves he had preserved, he grew new sprouts in laboratory conditions that were as clean as a medical clinic.
The "elm trees in a culture dish" proved acceptable to Chinese authorities, and last month Karnosky made the long trip to China with 150 small trees.
Central Park Splendor Lives!
OK, so he's not exactly saving the world here. But it's nice to know that a majestic tree that once towered over part of Central Park now thrives in its homeland.
Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on ABCNEWS.com. A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.