Cathy Mayes, Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, provided us with a great talk on the American Chestnut Tree last night. I posted a few photos to our Facebook album.
Did you know that up until the 1930s, the American Chestnut was the dominant tree in our forests? and because of it’s towering height, it was considered to be the Redwood of the east coast? It was!
It’s fruit, the chestnuts themselves, were a key staple of people who lived throughout Appalachian and it was integral to the economy.
In 1904, a fungus came into the US from China and while our trees are related to the Chinese Chestnut, our trees did not have the resistance needed to flight the blight.
As they died out, mammal populations crashed and have never recovered and people who depended on the chestnut for food and for timber suffered greatly (it was a double whammy for many people as the great depression hit during the same time).
There are still a few American Chestnut trees alive – many along the Rte 29 corridor, and some in Loudoun.
Cathy and the foundation she works with are leading the charge to try to bring back the American chestnut. They are taking a blight resistant chinese chestnut and pairing that with our Ameican chestnut. Then, pairing that with further American chestnuts in order to get to a 94% American chestnut that has blight resistance. Because of the growing preiods needed though, it will take a lifetime to get to the potential point of restoring the American Chestnut.
More information can be found at The American Chestnut Foundation. This is fascinating and great work being done!
Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology is the title of the book we gave away as a door prize last night. It’s an excellent book that tells the story of this tree that was once such a prominent aspect of our forest fabric. Let’s hope it is again one day.