By Sara Fitzsimmons
In mid-November of 2005, I had the pleasure of visiting the Connecticut Chapter and presenting at their Annual Meeting. Being sponsored by Yale, most specifically the School of Forestry and Environmental Resources, the meeting was held in New Haven, CT.
As some of you already know, the longest ongoing breeding program for chestnuts has been in Connecticut, and has occurred within very close proximity to New Haven. Much of the chestnut land cared for by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) is within a bur's throw of New Haven.
So on my trip out of town after the meeting, and with the help of a map drawn my Fred Hebard, I set out to Sleeping Giant State Park to take in a little bit of chestnut breeding history.
Taking Interstate 90 from New Haven to Hamden, a driver can get a great look at the Sleeping Giant Mountain (If you haven't, I recommend looking up the story of Sleeping Giant). On your way into the research plots, you pass Quinnipiac College, the State Park, and head on about a mile to, what else? Chestnut Lane.
As you turn onto Chestnut Lane, the South Lot will be on your right. Continue further up Chestnut Lane, and you'll see the West Lot on your left. Many of the trees in these lots were crosses started by Arthur H. Graves, who started his chestnut breeding work in 1930. He owned the land just off of Sleeping Giant State Park until he donated it and the trees to the state ? both of which have since been in the care of the CAES.
If you visit these sites, you'll see many various types of hybrids, many of which have either no blight or healing/healed cankers. There are Japanese crosses, European crosses, Chinese trees, even a cross of an Ozark chinkapin to a Chinese chestnut. What's most intriguing about an on site visit is that some have the crosses labeled; but many just have a position tag on them.
Tree Tag on the original Graves tree [click on image to see full sized photo]
Photo by Sara Fitzsimmons
Graves wrote extensively about his breeding work with chestnuts