Saturday, September 1, 2012

P. T. Barnum's Chestnut Tree

While reviewing some of the State of Connecticut's agricultural history, I found a detailed summary of chestnut tree history written by a researcher, Dr. Sandra L. Anagnostakis, of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, CT.  As a Connecticut tree grower, I found the detailed Chestnut tree information extremely important as a reference:

CT Agricultural Experiment Station-Dr. Anagnostakis Chestnut tree webpage

The American Chestnut tree population was devastated by a blight and root disease many years ago.  Diligent scientists and tree growers have been working to replant and rebuild the chestnut tree population.  Historically, Thomas Jefferson was probably the first American to devote attention to the science of Chestnut trees with the importation of seeds and saplings to his home at Monticello.  Jefferson was an experienced and astute botanist and was able to cultivate hybrids of the American Chestnut tree with imported European Chestnut tree varieties.  Jeffereson also had a plant nursery at his other retreat, Poplar Forest.  My interest in Poplar Forest relates to his landscaping, plant nursery, as well as, plant and grass species that he used at Poplar Forest.  There is an ongoing paleobotany research project at Poplar Forest.  Archeologists are excavating various areas of the gardens and plant nursery at Poplar Forest.

Notably, P. T. Barnum, Bridgeport's most famous resident, had an exotic Chestnut tree planted in the yard at his home.  Connecticut tree growers in the 19th Century acquired imported Chestnut tree seeds for large-scale growing and marketing.  However, it is possible that Barnum acquired his chestnut tree from his international travels as the Ringmaster of Barnum and Baily's Circus.  Open the following link and scroll down until you can view the Chestnut tree genus and species for Barnum's Chestnut tree which is a Japanese variety cultivated by the Connecticut grower Parsons:  P. T. Barnum's Chestnut tree

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of the tree.  However, there is a brief article in the Hartford Courant from September 3, 2007 about P. T. Barnum's Chestnut tree in Bridgeport.  A twelve year old boy spotted the tree and noted the importance of the old Parson's Chestnut tree in the yard of one of P. T. Barnum's former homes.

One item of interest to tree fans is that Connecticut College has a renown arboretum.  In 1985, the arboretum began the Notable Trees Project.  They have a group which travels around documenting and photographing trees of scientific and historic importance within the State of Connecticut.  Perhaps P. T. Barnum's Chestnut tree should be included in the Notable Trees Project.

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