Thursday, December 9, 2010

Helge Ness revisited

Some time ago I wrote about Helge Ness, a professor at Texas A&M in the early 1900's who was a pioneer (blazing a trail for the 3 or 4 who followed) of hybridizing oaks.

It has been some time since I opened the sacred text (Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J. Russell Smith).  My aplogies if I have covered this passage before, and my apologies for my gross violation of fair use by quoting such a long passage.  But I don't think Smith would mind. Nor would Ness (although he would probably object to my previous jokes about his name).

Of Ness's live oak / post oak hybrids Smith writes:

"Professor Ness found that during an unfavorable season these hybrid offspring made an average of three or more feet on every main limb, and nuts were borne in 1917 from an acorn planted in 1913. (emphasis mine)  These are facts for pondering.  Especially so is the fact that, in the second generation of breeding, some seeds planted in 1920 bore acorns in 1923 and bore a very large crop in 1925.  Starting with their present amazing qualities, what may not hybridization produce among fifty American (and some foreign) species of oaks?

"And after all this, the Texas Station has done nothing with oaks except to print a bulletin telling what wonderful shade trees the Ness hybrids have become.  What on earth could wake up the Texas station? It is almost on a par with the Alabama Station that cut down the marvelous honey locusts."

Does anyone know if Texas A&M ever did anything with these hybrids?  Are any Ness hybrids available for planting?

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