American Chestnut Journal

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American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

The American Chestnut was once an abundant native tree that grew in eastern forests reaching its greatest size in the southern Appalachians. Today, the American Chestnut is known only in memory because young chestnut trees rarely survive long enough to produce flowers and fruits.

 The American Chestnut was a beautiful tree but also very useful. Its reddish-brown wood was lightweight, soft, easy to split, very resistant to decay and did not warp or shrink. The fruit of the American Chestnut was sweet and flavorful; enjoyed by wildlife and humans as a favorite forest crop.

 Around 1904, a blight was unintentionally introduced into the US from the Orient. The chestnut blight spread like wildfire destroying billions of trees over the next 40 years.

 Today the American Chestnut survives as root sprouts and rare occasional survivors. Breeding programs are underway to re-establish the American Chestnut. Let us all hope that this magnificent tree can once again grace our forests.

artwork by Susan Bull Riley ©2008
 text by Steve Sierigk