In the early part of the 20th Century the American Chestnut was considered the most valuable tree species east of the Mississippi River, esteemed for both the timber and the crop of nuts it produced. A fungal blight arriving at that time quickly killed millions of these remarkable trees. Some still survive mostly in isolated pockets, including a few near Montpelier in two locations, though one group has recently succumbed to the blight. Several years ago I planted two trees—offspring of local trees—in the yard that have thrived, flowered and borne nuts for the past several years.
The American Chestnut is a beautiful tree that many have never seen so I wanted to share several photographs of them. The long, delicate leaves resemble American Beech since they are in the same family.
As summer heats up the male flowers form and grow into stunning, long white plumes covered with bees and other insects on a sunny day.
The nuts develop in a formidable husk which you dare not even pick up without gloves but which also opens when ripe to reveal a treasure of nuts inside.
Fall brings not only the crop of mast but a glory of rich brown leaves.
A delight of this summer was the discovery by a neighbor that the tree had produced an offspring which sprouted up in her garden. There are no guarantees either the parents or the child will escape the fate of the blight, but for now they are a delight I enjoy seeing throughout the year. This little tree really is a dream come true!