An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

May 3, 2008

A Native's Rant

As Virginians, we are often accused of having an inflated sense of our importance to the nation's history. Personally, I think our contributions are often under appreciated and overlooked. Part of this chip on our collective shoulders is the whole Plymouth Rock-Mayflower-Thanksgiving thing, like the good people of Massachusetts wrote the first chapter of American history. However, any student of history knows that there are several chapters prior to the one on Massachusetts, including the chapter on Virginia, and this fact is often overlooked in the national myth. Maybe it is easier to think of our nation as one founded by a group of godly men and women, seeking the shining city on the hill that would serve as an example to all nations, where they could live their lives according to their ideals. This in contrast to a nation founded by a group of men seeking their personal fame and fortune by any means possible, ill prepared for the realities of the new world, nearly done in by starvation and disease, and fatally inconsiderate to the people who already called this place home.

So normally I would be ready to give Virginia any credit possible, but as an horticulturist I have to draw the line. Last year during the state's 400th anniversary, there was a push for homeowners, businesses and municipalities to plant red white and blue anniversary gardens. There were pamphlets distributed with suggested plant lists and one of the anchor trees was Chionanthus virginicus. This great native goes by the name of Fringe Tree, White Fringe Tree, Grancy Gray Beard, or Old Man's Beard. What brought this whole rant on is, the trend among local garden clubs and other well-meaning Virginians to re-name this tree the Yorktown Victory Tree. Doesn't this species have enough monikers? How many other plants will have to be re-labeled in the name of civic or regional pride? I think we need to pull this weed before it gets out of hand.

Now that I have vented, please enjoy this native of Virginia (and lots of other places) in its fleecy, spring glory.


  1. Thanks for reminding us of the bits of American history that regularly get swept under the proverbial rug.

    Why not ask people to call it by it's botanical name, enough with the common names, let people speak of it by its proper name?

    Good rant, great native!

  2. Great tree whatever you call it. And a fine rant. Ranting is good...

  3. I've always admired this tree and you, our neighbor to the north. I love a good rant in the name of plants--play on words. I think I'll stick around awhile catching up. Looks like you've got soome interesting topics. I sure can't sleep tonight. I'm not sure if it was the 4th or 5th cart I unloaded today that did me in;)