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Reintroducing the American Chestnut

 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 558
Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I am sure some of you know about this tree and its history. At one time, these were the dominant tree in North America, forming huge canopies over the forest and serving as a major food source for both people and animals. Acorns were half ignored because of how abundant these were and without the bitter that many acorns have. The wood was one of the most used and loved because of how abundant and resistant to decay it was. When the Chestnut blight came to the US, it began absolutely destroying any tree over ten years old. It was made worse by the fact that when people found out about the blight, they started cutting down every tree they could find so they had the undamaged wood on hand for later use. Almost any chance of a large tree with resistance surviving was eliminated.

Cut to the modern age. Trees under 10 still grow, but tend to die off shortly after that. They have time to produce seed at least before they do. Several groups have been working to breed resistant strains. Some have done so through crosses with the Chinese variety followed with many back-crosses to try retaining only the blight resistant gene. Others have worked on breeding pure stock looking for signs of resistance. Most of these groups now offer the plants. Some do so through sale to recoup the costs of their project, others offer them freely under the condition that you agree to keep track of the plant over the years and send them data.

I would love to grow true American Chestnuts once I have a property I permanently call home, but I was wondering if anyone else has experience with these groups or with the American Chestnut in general. What do people think about the projects? If you have dealt with some of the groups, how was the experience?
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
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I used to work for a place that was trying to restore some land ontop of a mountain. Years ago, pollution from a zinc processing plant caused most of the vegetation to die on the mountain. My job was to plant and maintain American Chestnuts along with several other tree species (chestnut oak, post oak, scrub oak, black oak, red oak, white oak). We would get the American Chestnut either from seed or already grown small trees. Some chestnuts were pure and some were not. The seed of the hybrids would cost up to $300-$500 for just one nut but they were like almost pure American. Trees were planted in rows inside deer fences that enclosed 40 or more acres of which there were several . Despite having less than an inch of top soil on site the chestnuts did well. They certainly like good drainage with either lots of sand or rocks and they like soil with low pH. It also helps to inoculate the roots with a mycorrhizael fungi prior to planting.
 
Russell Olson
Posts: 179
Location: Zone 4 MN USA
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It seems like there are many groups and folks out to reintroduce the American chestnut, I've run across a bunch in looking for trees/seeds.
Badgersett is a woody agriculture research company based in MN, they probably lead the charge. They also select for cold hardiness which I appreciate. They are not easy to order from, very poor website and poor customer service, I gather they are not fully "ready" for consumers but offer their stuff anyway, I'm hopeful they will eventually modernize their systems at least to online ordering and maybe hire some friendly types to interact with customers.
I love Oikos tree crops, from Michigan, they have done open pollination/selection and have a few American hybrids to choose from along with a ton of other cool stuff.
I'm hoping to someday roast chestnuts on an open fire at Christmas with my family, but my trees are very young still and appear to be delicious to deer.
Do some internet surfing, you'll find a lot of info.
 
Darin Colville
Posts: 78
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Many botanical gardens and arboretums are working on this. Powell Gardens outside of KC,MO for one. Many nuts for seed are to be had. Your cosmic karma will be heavily rewarded for time spent on such a worth while project. I'm just sure of it.!
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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