truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Thu Dec 2 11:50:43 EST 1999

In article <383F6B93.83B8024E at>,
  Karl Davies <karl at> wrote:
> truffler1635 at wrote:
> <snip>
> > A potential problem with chestnuts here is that they interbreed easily.
> > Unless the nuts have been collected from isolated trees with known
> > single-species trees nearby, seedlings literally could be almost any
> > combination of hybrids from the species already introduced here. Not
> > that that would be bad, necessarily, but different hybrids do have
> > different desirability in terms of nut sweetness, tannic acid content,
> > growth, shade tolerance, and rooting structure.
> Some American chestnut advocates are concerned that interbreeding with
> Chinese chestnuts will be a big problem when they finally get the
> blight-resistant American strains developed.  They figure genes from the
> spreading Chinese species will ruin the timber quality of the columnar
> American species.
I thought that was because Chinese chestnuts are more bitter tasting
than American. The Chinese chestnut is apparently already resistant to
the blight, so will need to be cross with American chestnut to produce a
resistant tree. The chestnut blight, BTW, apparently hitch-hiked to the
US on ornamental cedar trees, where the blight forms interesting
variegated foliage on cedars, but does not kill the trees. So the next
time you see a varieted Japanese cedar tree, you might want to thank the
plant importers for their present back in 1904.
> > One advantage to chestnuts, I feel, is that most of the roots are near
> > the surface, and tend to stabilize relatively steep slopes. In shallow
> > soils, it may be necessary to create a sink of pit containing enough
> > soil to get the tree established. But once established, there are
> > naturally occuring fungi which evidently are spread mostly by raptors,
> > which should ensure longevity. I think chestnut cultivation makes more
> > sense than walnut, cherry, and many other hardwood species.
> Right.  Prices around here for chestnut lumber were in the $6-8 per bf range
> (retail) the last time I checked.  This was for lumber salvaged from old
> buildings.  Compare that to $4-6 per bf for walnut, and add in the fact that
> chestnut grows nearly twice as fast, and chestnut is hard to beat.  Plus,
> you get the nuts.  See the tables at the end of
> for more info.
> > And once the tree is large enough to make lumber (I've seen 25-year-old
> > chestnut
> > which are near lumber size) there is a pretty stable market for the
> > lumber in renovation of historic structures. A tree need only be 50 feet
> > tall and have a basal diameter of 20 inches for it to be commercially
> > important.
> Problem is you have to do some pretty intensive management to get Chinese
> chestnuts to grow timber.  They like to grow like standard apple trees.
> I've had some success with tree shelters doubled up to make them grow
> straight, clear butt logs.  I haven't figured out the economics on that
> yet.  Maybe I'm afraid to. <G>
It may be easier than you think Karl. In Oregon, chestnut grows as both
isolated tree, where the growth pattern is similar to oaks or apples.
But it _also_ grows well as an _understory_ tree, under 60-150 foot tall
Douglas fir. The later habitat doesn't grow chestnut as quickly as in
the open, but does encourage trees to form fairly straight trunks which
are rather tall. I haven't seen any trees comparable to the old-growth
chestnut that used to cover much of the East Coast (one photo I have
seen shows a grove 13-foot diameter chestnuts with at least 80 foot-tall
trunks before the first branches). Comparing those trees to our paltry
3-8 foot diameter trees is pretty sad. OTOH, our trees are only 80 years
old, and the ones in the photo were probably several hundred years old,
so if you can wait...

Daniel B. Wheeler

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