American Chestnut

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lyle11
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American Chestnut

Postby lyle11 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:49 pm

About 5 years ago I planted 2 American Chestnut seedlings on my farm in Wisconsin. You may not know the story of the American Chestnut but it was once as common as an oak in much of the Eastern USA, approximately from Ohio east. In 1904 Chestnut Blight Fungus (most likely introduced from Asia) was discovered on trees in New York and by 1950, almost all of the trees were dead.

It was discovered that trees planted far outside of the original range of the American Chestnut survived disease free for decades, but eventuallly get the blight. Most likely the fungus gets carried by a passing vehicle from the eastern USA. The other interesting thing is that the trees sprout from the roots of dead trees and frequently live long enough produce nuts. So, the tree lives on but gets blight and dies before it grows to even a fraction of full size. The leaves are similar to the blight resistant Chinese Chestnut but longer and the natural size of the tree is much larger and upright.

I wouldn’t plant one for a yard tree because of the likelihood of it getting blight, but here I have 80 acres and figured why not try a couple isolated from their natural range. I got 1 nut this year.

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Re: American Chestnut

Postby ajhbike » Thu Oct 18, 2018 3:39 am

Interesting....my house is from 1639 and the post and beam conduction is American chestnut as are the floor boards in the attic. You cannot nail or screw into the wood as it petrified
I thought all the American chestnut trees were wiped out in the early 1800's replaced by European chestnut.

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Re: American Chestnut

Postby Stanton » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:34 am

They are beautiful trees. Thanks for sharing your trees with us and hope they live long.
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Re: American Chestnut

Postby Winfield Dave » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:04 am

I have 3 trees on the property. 1 "older" one and 2 young ones which grew up from nuts planted by squirrels.
I picked 90 pounds of chestnuts this year.

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Re: American Chestnut

Postby lyle11 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 9:40 am

A farmer planted 9 trees in 1885 in West Salem, WI about 500 miles west of the normal American Chestnut range. They grew blight free until the 1980s. The original 9 trees grew to a stand of several hundred and is now fenced off as scientists try to save them. Scientists have been trying for years to save the American Chestnut which typically involves taking trees that show resistance and growing seedlings from these resistant trees or crossing the tree with a European chestnut. They eventually will probably get a 97% American Chestnut hybrid that survives. Like I said, the good thing is you can still grow the tree to the point of producing nuts so you can keep the species going as scientists and hobby growers experiment with finding a blight free tree.

I have read the trees grow straight and large. Mine have straight trunks and grow fast so I can see how they made good construction lumber although I don’t know how hard the wood is before it petrifies with age.

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Re: American Chestnut

Postby brichter » Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:20 am

Looking at the nut, I realize we have lots of them down here. trees don't get very big and we call them chinkapins...
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Re: American Chestnut

Postby lyle11 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 12:12 pm

I’ve never seen one, but from reading about them a Chinkapin chestnut is more of a big shrub rather than a tree. It does not get chestnut blight. I think the nuts are very similar, but a true American chestnut can go to over 100 feet tall.

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Re: American Chestnut

Postby TallCoolOne58 » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:13 pm

We used to have huge Chestnut and Elm trees here in northern NY. Some old huge stumps still remain, a reminder of what once was.
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