They anticipated the effort would, after several generations, produce a chestnut fit for recovering a vanished part of the American landscape and heritage. Free! Interactive Koppen Climate Classification Map for the United States; A pure Chinese chestnut, resistant to the blight. (Credit: American Chestnut Restoration Foundation/USDAFS). For two decades now, this historic quest has fallen to Fred Hebard, a taciturn, almost shy plant researcher who has directed the Meadowview facility from the beginning. (Courtesy photo American Chestnut Foundation) Sometimes reaching a height of more than 100 feet tall with trunk diameters often well over 10 feet, the American chestnut was the giant of the eastern U.S. forests. Silvicultural and reintroduction trials provide an opportunity to experiment with planting chestnuts on field and forested sites. The American chestnut was one of the largest trees in the forests of eastern North America. “Meanwhile,” he says, “we’re going to plant. In the next couple years, Hebard says, there will be larger-scale, more formal experiments testing the latest generation of trees’ resistance alongside Chinese chestnuts. Their profusion of bloom supported honeybees and other pollinators. There is a lot of incompatibility, which retards spreading; also, European chestnuts probably have a little more natural resistance than American chestnuts, which allows the hypoviruses to work more easily there. Furthermore, they believe that the progeny of these plants should all exhibit natural blight resistance. Existing trials have examined planting in gaps of various sizes, clearcuts, closed canopy, shelterwoods, and multi-step management prescriptions. The USDA had been crossing American to Chinese chestnuts generation after generation. Its nuts were consumed by animals and people alike, and it was widely used as timber. While the Chestnut Foundation’s new, resistant trees are the first soldiers to be deployed against the blight, other ongoing programs could soon bear fruit: a chestnut genetically engineered for blight resistance; genetically altered strains of the blight fungus itself that weaken it; and, farther from success, breeding a pure native with resistance by crossing old survivor chestnuts to one another. That’s the merest wisp of what Peattie described; “But we’re excited,” says Meghan Jordan of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF), which supplied the trees. “Oh, they all died.” Learn how to identify American chestnuts and send us a sample to support our research. More than a thousand place names that contain the word chestnut remain today throughout the Appalachians, which were the heart of the species’ range. Chestnuts dominated eastern hardwood forests not only in numbers; an estimated three to four billion trees across more than 30 million acres. There are also ongoing efforts to develop trees that are resistant to the disease. The loss of the chestnut was an ecological calamity with few equals. It survives in the wild in the form of root systems and stump sprouts. American chestnut. There is plenty of evidence that genetic resistance to disease can be recovered by crossing even trees with relatively low resistance; but it is taking awhile — “We’re about halfway there,” he ventures. American chestnut was once a dominant and widespread canopy tree through many parts of the country, its range stretching from Mississippi to Maine. The American chestnut is a broad-leaf tree belonging to the beech family. ACCF geneticists calculated that perhaps 10% (estimates range from 5% to 20%) of the plants produced in this manner will exhibit blight resistance at least as favorable as the parent trees. Michigan. This article was published in the Winter 2010 issue of American Forests magazine. Plant and Tree Range Distribution Maps; Castanea dentata Map ; Castanea dentata - American chestnut Range Map. Reaching over 30 metres tall and living up to 500 years, the chestnut was known as “the queen of eastern American forest trees.” So what happened to what was once also called the “redwood of the East?” The American Chestnut Foundation is working to restore the chestnut to its natural range. Researchers have estimated that 1 out of every 4 trees in the Appalachian Mountains was an American chestnut. His funding comes from the National Institutes of Health, which is interested in how viruses work; the chestnut hypovirulence is one of the easiest ways to study this, Nuss says. Interpreting Wetland Status. TACF National Office 50 North Merrimon Avenue, Suite 115, Asheville, NC 28804, Phone: 828-281-0047 Fax: 828-253-5373 email@example.com. Backcrossing was how the King Ranch bred its famed Santa Gertrudis cattle to produce excellent meat while surviving the harsh south-Texas environment. When you decide to start planting American chestnut trees, it’s important to begin early in the spring. It was some hundred years ago that these chestnut trees dominated the forested hills and mountains. Another hope lies with engineering a transgenic chestnut. Planting will continue in national forests. By the 1950s destruction was complete. According to a historical publication, "many of the dry ridge tops of the central Appalachians were so thoroughly crowded with chestnut that, in early summer, when their canopies were filled with creamy-white flowers, the … The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was one of the most common trees in the area. The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is a large, monoecious deciduous tree of the beech family native to eastern North America. *Are you enjoying this post? One of the funders of that project is Duke Energy, which is interested in the chestnut’s potential to reclaim coal-mining land, but also in its promise for sequestering carbon dioxide. Fax: 202.737.2457 Their bold-grained, blondish wood was strong, easily worked, and extremely rot-resistant, used in everything from barn timbers to pianos, split-rail fences to fine furniture (in which it was often veneered with more fashionable woods like mahogany). The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. A chestnut with a disease-resistant wheat gene has already been produced experimentally by researchers William Powell and Charles Maynard at the State University of New York’s Environmental Science and Forestry school in Syracuse. There are now only 100 or so that remain. And you get an award-winning magazine. It is present in parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. (Credit: American Chestnut Foundation), “He was haunted by the ghosts of these old chestnuts, by the great emptiness their extinction had left in the world. It was a huge, majestic tree, with a very straight stem. Their native range encompasses most of the Appalachian mountain range, as far north as southern Maine and south as far as Alabama. “This means that our goal after 25 years has moved from breeding a chestnut that can survive to working on landscape-level restoration.”. It was a magnificent tree used for lumber and for food. (Credit: Robert Llewellyn). “And?” Far more numerous are chestnuts that sprout from the roots of felled forest giants, only to die in a decade or two from the deadly fungus that may never go away. Of literally billions of chestnuts growing in the tree’s historic range when the blight hit, only dozens of pre-blight survivors struggle on in the wild today. Burnham and other scientists in 1983 founded the private, nonprofit American Chestnut Foundation to carry out a scientific program of backcross breeding. That annual exuberance of the American chestnut began fading from the landscape around 1904, when a blight imported on Asian chestnuts began rampaging from Maine to Georgia. The goal has been to develop a blight-resistant strain of the tree and, over time, reintroduce it to its natural range. Unfortunately very few specimens of these trees are left now. Just as the chestnut blight appears here to stay, so does the movement to restore the chestnut to its place in the forest. Most were nearly barren of branches for 50 feet or better, living up to what would become their nickname, “the redwood of the East.” These were massive trunks, some 16 … Overview Information American chestnut is a plant. The hypovirus here may make the blight too weak, so that it can’t spread in a less destructive form; in effect, vaccinating the chestnuts it encounters against the full-strength blight. American chestnut (Castanea dentata), whose native range is shown at left, is highly susceptible to the disease. In Carroll County, Maryland, in partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation and American Forests, more than 18,000 school children each year participate in a science curriculum built around experimental chestnut orchards. Researchers say they are strong performers, reaching three to seven feet, some flowering at an earlier age than normal. American Chestnut is a vigorous fast-growing tree. When cross-pollinated with another chestnut tree by an insect pollinator, the female flowers develop into spiny bur-like fruits enclosing one to several chestnuts. The American Chestnut was once the giant of the Appalachian forest canopy. Fred Paillet, a University of Arkansas geoscientist who often writes on chestnuts, has taken the long view. ”. However, the species was devastated by chestnut blight, a fungal disease that came from introduced chestnut trees from East Asia. At the University of Maryland’s Biotechnology Center in Shadyside, virologist Donald Nuss has been dissecting the American strains of hypovirulence, trying to understand why they don’t spread as easily in the wild here as they do in Europe. History of the American Chestnut American chestnuts, giants that could grow up to 125 feet tall and 16 feet wide, once dominated the forests of Appalachia. By Tom Horton, Healthy American chestnuts in Lesesne State Park. The process of tree breeding is not given to “eureka” breakthroughs. Then they do it all over again, generation after generation, hoping that genetic theory, forecasting a chestnut worthy of reintroduction after six crosses, corresponds to reality. Some oak species (Quercusspp.) (Credit: Vicky Sawyer). The profound impact forests had on one of America’s greatest authors and his writing. A Purdue University study shows that the growth rate, size and longevity of chestnuts let them store more carbon, and at a faster rate, than any other hardwood. Caring for American Chestnut Trees. The Romans ranked chestnuts alongside the olive tree and the grapevine as plants important to civilization. Nuss has cloned the hypovirulence and inserted it into a transgenic chestnut blight whose effects on trees are far less severe. get minor bark infections that can produce inoculum. American chestnut. Range. Most American chestnuts today are killed by the chestnut blight by the time they reach 15 feet in height. Known as “redwoods of the East,” chestnuts grew fast and big, and lived long, reaching 100 feet in height, with diameters exceeding 12 feet, and attaining an average age of two to three centuries. Silvicultural trials allow us to learn how chestnut grows under different forest management scenarios. Status Endangered That’s the merest wisp of what Peattie described; “But we’re excited,” says Meghan Jordan of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF), which supplied the trees. To develop resistance to the blight, young trees are inoculated with samples of the chestnut blight fungus. A project to spot chestnuts sprouting within sight of the Appalachian Trail has so far turned up more than 40,000, Burnworth says. The American chestnut rose 100, sometimes 120, feet above the loamy forest floor. He explains that such a dose probably would have killed even resistant Chinese chestnuts. With this latest hybrid, unofficially dubbed the “Restoration” chestnut, breeders feel they have a tree with enough of the Chinese chestnut’s natural blight resistance to have a shot at surviving; but also a tree that is virtually indistinguishable in form, growth rate, and wood quality from a pure American chestnut. The story of the native American tribes is strikingly similar to that of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata). . Remnant root systems are resilient and continue to send up new shoots that eventually succumb to the blight. It was most commonly found on hillsides and ridges. (Credit: American Chestnut Restoration Foundation/USDAFS). And next spring in Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County, about 500 more of the blight-resistant chestnuts will be planted on a private, cutover forest plot, Steiner says. The American chestnut is a large tree with brown, smooth buds and twigs. Before the species was devastated by the chestnut blight, a fungal disease, it was one of the most important forest trees throughout its range. By 1989 the American Chestnut Foundation had secured farmland to begin its research and breeding program at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley in the small town of Meadowview, Virginia. It has elongate leaves tapered at both ends and large teeth along the margins. Scientists have found naturally occurring viruses in the forest that are, in effect, a blight of the chestnut blight, infecting it and weakening its destructive power. Lifespan American chestnuts that are not blight-resistant live only about five years. Burnham had always assumed that program, which crossed thousands of American and Chinese trees since the 1930s, would eventually succeed. The American chestnut is native to southern and eastern parts of the United States, particularly along the Appalachian Mountains. An American Chestnut Tree planted inside Bernheim’s Arboretum Prior to the 1900s, the American chestnut tree once dominated over 200 million acres of the eastern hardwood forest from Maine to Georgia, and west to the Ohio River Valley. Before the early 1900s, the American chestnut was the predominant tree species in eastern forests. Burnworth explains that American chestnuts have an extraordinary ability to “release,” or spurt toward the light when surrounding canopy trees die. (Credit: American Chestnut Foundation). Hebard was even a model for a character in local writer Barbara Kingsolver’s best selling novel, Prodigal Summer: The American chestnut’s distinctive leaves, burs, and nuts. Chestnut hybrids, grown at the Hashawa Environmental Center in Carroll County, MD. deep) as soon as the soil is workable. Hebard, now 61, says at best it will be decades before it’s clear how successful he has been. The American chestnut was once a very common tree but is now extremely rare due to chestnut blight. Many clear-cuts literally explode with long-suppressed chestnuts racing for the light. “Pretty good.”. After decades, their closest success was a single hybrid, dubbed the Clapper tree after its breeder. American chestnut grew over a wide range in eastern North America. Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) is resistant; a small canker can occur. The key is a concept known as backcrossing. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range. Then breeders wait years for the offspring to grow, inoculate them with blight, and select as few as one out of every 150 trees that show the best resistance and most American-like growth habit. But now comes the best hope in over a century for restoring the species that once comprised a quarter of all eastern hardwoods, with economic and environmental values unmatched by anything in today’s forest. “Chestnut brown was considered the most beautiful shade of a woman’s hair, and the man who had a chestnut beard was usually considered handsome… silks and satins were available in chestnut brown,” wrote 101-year-old Georgia Miller of Pennsylvania a few years ago, recalling her childhood in chestnut forests. The American chestnut was one of the most important forest trees throughout its range and was considered the finest chestnut tree in the world. It was beloved by timbermen for re-sprouting readily from the stump and reaching diameters of two feet or more in little over half a century; an oak on similar soils would take a couple centuries to add as much wood. Reading the USDA’s published results, Burnham was shocked to realize that its scientists, including future Green Revolution Nobelist Norman Borlaug, had ignored a basic tenet of breeding resistance into crops. Native range of the American chestnut tree (castanea dentata) The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. They are high in fiber, vitamin C, protein, and carbohydrates, and low in fat. A native of Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill suburb, he’s not given to talking much about matters other than the science of chestnuts. For example, a Green Mountain National Forest planting, ma… Meanwhile, the original blight is able to remain dormant in dozens of non-chestnut tree species, from which it respreads by wind and by birds. The trees grow best when American chestnut tree nuts are sown directly in the ground (with the flat side or sprout facing down, half an inch to an inch (1-2.5 cm.) One fourth of this forest was composed of native chestnut trees. American chestnut is a member of the beech family. A 94% American backcross hybrid, which characteristics of the American species, but the resistance of the Chinese. If you could custom design the ideal tree species, you couldn’t come up with a better one than American chestnut. Fred Hebard says he’s seen understory chestnuts only an inch in diameter that show 60 years of growth rings, followed by growth that approaches an inch a year after they get access to light. The wood was nearl… Between 1946 and 1963 it grew arrow-straight and tall like an American chestnut, reaching 76 feet before succumbing to blight in 1976. Griffin has one tree, grafted in the early 1980s, that is now 24 inches in diameter and close to 70 feet tall. Among his concerns is whether we fully understand all the mechanisms chestnuts employ to resist the blight; also “Will the Chinese chestnut’s resistance, even if we put it all into an American tree, be enough? But because of its size and rather coarse look, and the possible litter of the prickly nut husks, it might be best-suited to a woodlot or semi-wild area. (Credit: Melissa Boyle). Approximately 15⁄16ths American and 1⁄16th Chinese, “It’s probably not the best tree we can achieve, but it’s good enough to start planting,” says Kim Steiner, director of Penn State University’s arboretum, and a science advisor to the Chestnut Foundation. Nor has the chestnut itself ever really gone away, notes Essie Burnworth, head of the ACF’s Maryland chapter: “There are millions of them around, sprouting from old stumps, sitting as seedlings in the forest understory, just waiting for light to grow.”. American chestnut - Castanea dentata Native Range Border Related Maps. All Rights Reserved. An Incredible Tree. Map Legend. Scientists believe that by crossing an American chestnut tree with its blight-resistant cousin, the Chinese chestnut, the tree will retain both its American traits (e.g., tall-growing) and the gene for blight resistance. This planting, at a place fittingly known as Chestnut Ridge, will intersperse the chestnuts with other native species — white pine, red oak, black cherry, sugar maple — “the first attempt to see how they compete in a real-world situation,” says Sara Fitzsimmons, another chestnut researcher at Penn State. Today as we prowl the forests, its hard to think in the past tense and visualize that Castanea dentata, the American American Forests Reflects on Florence Harding During 2019 International Women's DayPerhaps Florence Mabel. Complementary programs would be added throughout the historic range of the chestnut as the foundation’s state chapters grew to include 15 states. 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