American Chestnut

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Wed Apr 29 23:43:39 EST 1998

In article <3547BCB9.C8DD1A5 at>,
  Ron Wenrich <woodtick at> wrote:
> JimiFromMI wrote:
> > Someone a while back posted information on disese resistant American Elms.
> > Besides "street-side" beauty, what features do these trees have to offer
> > (firewood, lumber, wildlife, etc.)?
> >
> > American Chestnuts were similarly wiped out by disese.  Are there disese
> > resistant strains of American Chestnuts available?  Would this tree be suitable
> > in Zone 5?  I may be interested in starting a small plantation, but would like
> > to have some hope for success.  I wouldn't mind container-growing them for a
> > few years if it would help in establishment.
> >
> > Any ideas?
> Check out the American Chestnut Foundation.
> They have American Chestnuts seed kits for $50, but you have to be a member of the
> ACF, which is another $40.  Unfortunately, you have to apply for seed kits by April
> 1 for the 1998 planting season.
> The ACF is trying to develop a resistant strain of the American chestnut by
> breeding it with the Chinese chestnut.  They expect to have seeds available, which
> should be disease resistant, in another 10 years.  The hybrid will be 15/16
> American chestnut and 1/16 Chinese chestnut.  Sounds like something where genetic
> engineering could be helpful.  Much more helpful than cloning sheep.
> I thought there was still some chestnut on the UP of Michigan which were isolated
> from the blight.  I have seen seed bearing chestnuts in PA.  The local ones were
> about 12-14" and were never marked for cutting.  I did work for a electric utility
> which had one growing on their R/W which was about 20", but some thoughtful logger
> cut it down when the R/W was put in.  To the utility's credit, they located their
> line outside the growing area of the chestnut.  So, there must be some resistant
> chestnut out there.
I understand that the chestnut blight hits most American chestnuts which are
planted in relatively wet areas. Therefore look for blight-resistant trees on
slopes. At one time these magnificent trees were prevalent over much of the
eastern US, attaining profound girth. The wood is generally resistant to most
fungal degraders, like Western red cedar is. Unfortunately the chestnut blight
was brought in on non-native trees, and spread rampantly.

In Oregon, some American Chestnuts still apparently survive, possibly the
result of a judge who imported them from the east coast to near Corbett,
Oregon (along the Columbia Gorge). Although these trees are supposedly some of
the largest remaining American chestnuts, identification is nearly impossible.
It seems that American chestnuts interbreed easily with many other chestnut
species, many of which were also brought into Multnomah County, Oregon as
ornamental trees. And yet...the chestnuts I've seen near Corbett have already
reached 4-5 feet diameter.

I wish you well in your search. Please be sure to post to ng if you find a
source: I'm interested in cultivation as well. I have a few acres of rather
steep, well-drained soils where American chestnut should do fine. I'll even
settle for non-infected certified Amerian chestnut seed, if I could ever find
out how to germinate them. (hint, hint)

Daniel B. Wheeler

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