The American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) was once "queen of
the forest". The dominant tree of Eastern woodlands, it often reached
heights of 100 feet with a girth of 20 feet. These trees grew along
mountain hillsides and provided soft, light-weight wood for building
everything from split rail fences to caskets. The tannin from the bark
was used in the production of leather, and the fruit of the tree was an
important cash crop for local people. It was devastating when in 1904
the Chestnut blight came to the U.S.from the orient. Once a tree was
infected, fungus grew on the limbs and trunk, killing the tree above
the infected area. Within 40 years most American Chestnut trees were
destroyed. Because the roots remained unaffected, saplings sprouted
but were attacked by the fungus before they matured. Using healthy
saplings, efforts have been made to restore this magnificent tree to
its former glory.
Recently a nursery in Ohio produced hybrid saplings that are
resistant to the blight and have an 80% survival rate. In December
of 2012, we obtained six of these hybrid trees and planted them
on the hill behind Chestnut Cottage. We placed them inside sleeves to
protect the roots from mice and moles. When they outgrow their sleeves,
we'll cage them so the deer don't eat them.
Nelson Henderson said it best, "The true meaning of life is to plant
a tree under whose shade you do not expect to sit." Our hope
who come after us.
Check out the article in the Nov. 11, 2014 issue of the Washington Post :
" Unearthed: Thanks to science, we may see the rebirth of the American Chestnut"