FARGO (AP) - A North Dakota State University researcher who has developed several varieties of plants is honoring his grandson by naming a tree after him.
Retired plant sciences professor Dale Herman says the Sun Beam Ironwood tree got its name because of the "delightful, outgoing, friendly" personality exhibited by his 4-year-old grandson, Cameron Winkler, who was born with a form of spina bifida and is partially paralyzed below the waist.
Herman tells The Forum his grandson is a "little blessing" to those around him.
"That's why I named it Sun Beam, because he just lights up everybody's life," Herman said. "No matter where you take him, a restaurant or any place, he'll go right up to a 1-year-old or a 100-year old and just strike up a conversation."
Kevin Winkler, Cameron's father, said the spina bifida required a surgery when he was just 2 days old to close up his exposed spinal cord, and he's had several surgeries since dealing with a shunt that drains excess spinal fluid from the brain.
People seem to be drawn to his son, he said, and nurses and doctors at his hospital fight over who gets to take care of him.
"He's got a lot of God-given determination, and he exudes cheerfulness and a charming disposition and a lot of positive energy to everybody that he comes in contact with," Kevin Winkler said.
Herman said the ironwood variety was introduced in 2011 to a wholesale producer in Oregon and likely won't be available for another year or two. He said the variety stands out for its attractive golden yellow fall color that changes to a coppery hue before the leaves drop in the winter.
Herman said the tree's small to medium size is ideal for residential lots like the one in north Fargo the Winklers call home.
"I've got a small yard, so of all the trees to pick from, I think we're going to hold a place for Cameron's tree," Kevin Winkler said.