Still Learning To See

American Chestnut

Not many in this country have ever even seen an American Chestnut and far, far fewer remember when this remarkable tree could be seen as an integral part of the Eastern forest—well more than 25% of hardwoods in parts of the Appalachian Mountains. The invasive Chestnut Blight came to us accidentally from China and began its devastation in the early 1900s, It was fast and quite thorough in its spread. A number of trees remain, isolated and/or somewhat resistant, and these have formed the backbone of cross-breeding and restoration efforts conducted by the American Chestnut Foundation.

Chestnut-5275Several years ago I planted a seedling that was sourced from a local, surviving stand of nut-producing trees. It has grown to almost twenty feet in height and last year flowered profusely.

Chestnut-5276 Chestnut-3306Two years ago I planted a second so there could be cross-pollination, essential to nut production. I’m thrilled that both trees are still doing well—they will always be susceptible to blight—and both are flowering! Nuts could be in my future!!

A recent book, The Homing Instinct, by one of my favorite naturalist authors, Bernd Heinrich, has a remarkable chapter about the American Chestnut. How do trees fit into a book about “homing instinct?” I suggest you pick up a copy of this excellent book and discover the answer for yourself!

I can assure readers I’ll keep you informed if these two trees in my yard make nuts!

Also, I’m thrilled to report about a hundred people came to the opening of the show yesterday at the Governor’s Gallery. The photographs looked even better than I could have imagined hanging on the walls of a room full of people who were enjoying them. The whole thing is so satisfying.


This entry was published on July 11, 2014 at 9:24 am. It’s filed under Flowers, Garden, John Snell, People, Photograph, Summer, Trees and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “American Chestnut

  1. Deborah Leu on said:

    Wonderful photos and even better story! Don and I have been trying to identify the trees we see along our morning walks. No American chestnuts that we’ve seen (yet), but there is a very large American elm. It looked like an elm to me – remembered from my childhood, but we thought it couldn’t be given the elm diseases. However, we keyed it out and it does seem to be an elm. We’ve also seen several sweet gums.

  2. Great! You may well have seen an American Elm as there are many still alive, including some huge, classic vase-shaped ones. Elms also tend to seed heavily and the seeds sprout vigorously. The young elms typically only last 10-15 years but can grown to 30′ in that time. There is one large American Elm left in Montpelier. The Tree Board has planted a few different resistant varieties but only one has survived to date. We’ll try more. We are just too far north for Sweet Gum but I love seeing them on our trips to North Carolina.

  3. By the way, I think Don would enjoy the Heinrich book during his upcoming period of reading!

  4. Chica Snell on said:

    Do you remember the chestnut tree that grew in Shone’s yard? I loved to pick up the chestnuts and feel the smoothness of it and was always amazed at the beautiful colors of the shell. I remember carrying one or two in my pocket just so I could enjoy them whenever I wanted to. I believe we roasted some once and I was disappoints in the taste. However I loved the hickory nuts from a tree in our yard after roasting them. Love your pics John. So happy you had such a great turnout opening day!

    Sent from my iPad


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