|'FORT MCNAIR' HYBRID BUCKEYE...|
|...SPECTACULAR IN FLOWER|
Sunday, 9:00 AM, 54 degrees F at the ferry dock, the same on the back porch. Wind NW, mostly calm with light gusts. The sky is cloudy and overcast, and it is misting, the humidity 100%. The barometer is rising gently, now at 30.01". The next ten days are forecast to have mixed skies, high temperatures mostly in the 60's, and chances of rain.
A few years back, as City Forester, I planted some rather spectacular flowering trees that are a hybrid between the southern native red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, and the European horsechestnut, A. hippocastanaeum. They were called hybrid buckeyes when I purchased them but they are also currently being called hybrid red horsechestnut. Given the parentage, I guess either could be correct. They were originally planted on both sides of Sixth St. (Hwy. 13) entering Bayfield from the south.
The official name of this hybrid as currently sold is Aesculus X carnea 'Fort McNair.' The X denotes that it is a hybrid. It is important to order and purchase hybrids by their exact name to be sure it is the right plant. The Fort McNair bears nuts that are said to be viable, and to produce an offspring much like the parent plant, which is unusual for a hybrid of any kind; I have not seen our trees bear nuts. There is another hybrid, 'Brioti,' which is also quite beautiful but does not bear fruit. There are one or two on private property in Bayfield. Hybrid plants must generally be reproduced by making the original cross and obtaining seeds from that union, or by asexual propagation, which is one reason they are usually expensive.
We have lost two of the original trees we planted, and current construction threatens several more, but the remaining trees seem to be doing well, and have made it through successive very rough winters. We have been unable to replace those lost because young Fort McNair trees have not done well in northern nurseries the last several years and have been very scarce. All this makes one wonder whether it is worth the trouble to grow these trees.
It may not be practical to grow unusual and particularly ornamental trees, but a special tree such as the Fort McNair is a great signature tree for a community or a park, or as a spectacular entrance statement. One could say the same thing about a rare and difficult to find native tree such as an American Chestnut. In any case, it is interesting to engage in such efforts as long as they don't become too expensive or time consuming.
Originally I had envisioned an alle' of Fort McNairs along the Hwy. 13 entrance to Bayfield, and that may never be achieved in its entirety, but the trees that have survived the winters and the snowplowing thus far always are beautiful and unusual in spring and draw a lot of attention.
My recorded blooming dates for these trees are: 6/09/16; 6/29/15; 5/27/12; 6/26/11. The spring of 2012 they bloomed very early, other recorded years they bloomed in June, so this year they are about right on time.