netcurmudgeon (netcurmudgeon) wrote,
netcurmudgeon
netcurmudgeon

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Happy news

I learned something tonight that made me very happy.

We have a living Glastonbury Thorn!

Now, genetically the Glastonbury Thorn is a common single-seeded Hawthorne. It's special because all Glastonbury Thorns are direct descendants from one tree -- THE Glastonbury Thorn, from Glastonbury England.[1] Glastonbury Connecticut, is named for its English forerunner. The thorn (whose botanical name is Crataegus monogyna Biflora[2]), is featured on the town seal. Glastonbury Partners in Planting also uses the image of the thorn in its seal and on its publications.

Over the years there have been several attempts to get the Glastonbury Thorn established in town. But, the climate in Glastonbury England is very mild (it's on the West coast, and gets a lot of warming from the Gulf Stream), and the climate in Glastonbury Connecticut isn't. There was a good sized thorn tree growing on the town green next to the Historical Society building, until someone backed into it with her car and destroyed it. Some years later a group sent to England for new thorns, hoping to propagate them in time for the town's tercentenary in 1993, but the young trees spent so long in quarantine at JFK, that they arrive in Glastonbury totally dried out. None of them made it. A few years ago, an attempt was made to graft scions from the Glastonbury Thorn at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. onto common Hawthorn root-stock, but the results weren't good.

The idea of having Glastonbury Thorn trees in Glastonbury went into dormancy until just about two years ago. A student, after going through a unit on town history, wrote to the Town Council asking why we have the thorn on the town seal. It doesn't grow here! Did the English make us put it on the seal?.

Well, that was enough to get my dad and some other GPIP members going. A new plan was hatched to try grafting again. They ordered Hawthorn saplings to grow as root stock, and they made arrangements with the groundskeeper at the National Cathedral to get scions (cuttings from the tree) in early Spring. Now, grafting is supposed to be done when the plants are still dormant. Spring came, and so did the scions. But, D.C. is ahead of us in the turning of the seasons, so the scions were too far along -- they were almost leafing out when they arrived! But, Andy Brand at Broken Arrow Nursery tried anyway.

Summer brought disappointing news: the scions had been too far along. None of the grafts had taken. The root-stock could probably be saved for another attempt next year. So, we determined to try again. Next year we would make arrangements earlier with the National Cathedral.

Tonight, at the GPIP board meeting, my dad gave us unexpected news. He had been down to Broken Arrow on business, and the manager told him to see Andy about the thorns. Andy had kept the "failed" specimens in his greenhouse over the Summer, and ONE OF THE GRAFTS TOOK!

The plant has grown two new stems from the scion -- one going straight up like a tree should, and another growing horizontally. Both are good news. The straight stem will (hopefully) grow into a proper Glastonbury Thorn tree. In the waning days of winter next year, Andy will cut up the horizontal stem into several pieces to use as scions in our next round of grafting. By next summer we may have more than one thorn!

There seems to have been a lot of hard news lately, both locally, nationally, and internationally. This one bit of good news -- especially after last Summer's let-down -- is such a welcome bright spot in my day.



[1] There's a lovely Christian legend about the thorn -- that Joseph of Aramethea came to England, and planting his staff into the ground in Glastonbury, it took root and burst into flower.

[2] There's a second legend that the Glastonbury Thorn will bloom whenever it is in the presence of the royal family. Now, the climate in Glastonbury England (and Washington D.C.) is so mild that it will often bloom in the Spring and again near Christmas (hence Biflora in the name). Oddly, the royals tend to visit Glastonbury Abbey right at Christmas. QED. ;-)
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