American Chestnut

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Sat May 23 09:15:05 EST 1998

In article <1998052301121100.VAA18305 at>,
  jimifrommi at (JimiFromMI) wrote:
> Nursery source suggested previously from poster (thanks) indicates a blight
> resistant American Chestnut crossed with Manchurian - Castanea dentata X
> mollissima.  Normal old Castanea dentata is also sold with mention for
> suitability "outside of the native range of chestnut where blight is not a
> factor".  I've had difficulty actually hooking up with a voice at the nursery
> to explain, so I post this question here:
> What is "outside the native range of chestnut where blight is not a factor"?
> Thanks.
I've wondered about that designation also. In _Tree Crops_ J. Russell Smith
has an extensive section on chestnut. But he doesn't mention range much

I _think_ American chestnut (C. dentata) is normally not found much west of
the Mississippi. Chestnut blight is not apparently not found with trees on
well-drained slopes. The blight also does not affect very young trees. And
many blight-afflicted trees will form healthy scions/suckers from below the
infected site. These suckers, if they could be carefully managed, might be a
good source for mushroom bedlogs such as shiitake or Hen of the Woods (Grifola

Elevation is apparently also a factor, at least here in Oregon. Chestnut near
Corbett, Oregon apparently lacks the blight, at least when growing on the
sides of the Columbia Gorge. Slopes for these trees vary from near 0 at ridge
tops to near vertical for the gorge itself. A key factor appears to be
sufficient cold to ensure germination. At least 3 months of sub-freezing
weather is needed.

The Multnomah County area is interesting but confusing regarding chestnuts.
Many C. molissima have evidently been introduced, along with what appears to
be C. dentata, and several other species of Castanea. People unfamiliar with
Castanea may ask what's so confusing? Simply that Castanea species interbreed
easily. Starting out with C. dentata does not ensure what crosses will be
produced. And the Chinese chestnut is not as sought after as food. Chestnut
crosses have considerable variation in edibility, at least as far as humans
are concerned.

Between the Corbett I-84 exit and Vista House there are several examples of
chestnut readily available growing on steep, well-drained rock-rich soils.
Most of these appear to be crosses of various species of Castanea. I have yet
to see any signs of Chestnut blight on these trees. However, access to the
trees may require something as simple as permission from landowners to
mountain-climbing equipment. Harvesting nuts from the latter is difficult
without wings.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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