Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hybridized Time and Plants Meet at the Battlefield

Under the spreading hican tree (a grafting of a hickory/pecan hybrid to the rootstock of a hickory), John Mills hybridized past and present at his annual reading of the Declaration of Independence. The reading, along with some shootings of cannons and cooking of colonial foods, took place as they always do on July 4 at Princeton Battlefield. Soldiers explained the difference between a musket and a rifle, and said the rifles' better accuracy made it possible for the colonists to pick off British officers--something the British took as a breach of their gentlemanly rules of warfare.

The battlefield grounds now have a few new hybrids--four young chestnut trees that are 15/16th American Chestnut and 1/16th Japanese. The trees have three things going for them: a sunny spot to grow, the t.l.c. of Princetonian Bill Sachs, who planted them and is now keeping them watered through the extended drought, and immunity from Chestnut Blight that the Japanese portion of their genetic makeup will hopefully confer. The trees are part of a larger effort to reintroduce native chestnuts into the American landscape.

(You can read more about American chestnut tree reintroductions in Princeton by typing "chestnut" into the search box at the upper left hand corner of this blog.

Being a promoter of habitat for wildlife, I was a bit chagrined to see that the battlefield meadow (back left in the photo), which is normally allowed to grow through the summer, has been mowed down. A long-range goal of the Friends of the battlefield is to restore a more authentic landscape, which would likely mean replacing some of the mowed grass with orchards and meadows.

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