Returning The American Chestnut

The American Chestnut dominated The Eastern Seaboard from Georgia to Maine not so long ago. They were the main canopy species of these forests, an estimated 4 billion trees, covering over 8 million acres, and they fed multitudes.

American Chestnut Tree Facing Up the Trunk

Chestnuts were sold roasted on pushcarts in our cities, fed the now extinct passenger pigeon; the trees provided timber, enormous, majestic. They were quickly driven near to extinction thanks to a fungal blight that hitched a ride on a Chinese Chestnut in 1904. Sadly, this is how it happens. A pathogen arrives with a new plant, and we lose a species, and the various species which in turn fed on it, and on them.

“The chestnut blight was accidentally introduced to North America around 1904 when Cryphonectria parasitica was introduced into the United States from East Asia from the introduction of the cultivation of Japanese chestnut trees into the United States for commercial purposes.[12][13] It was first found in the chestnut trees on the grounds of the New York Zoological Garden (the “Bronx Zoo”) by Herman W. Merkel, a forester at the zoo.” — Wikipedia Chestnut Blight

The Long Island Conservancy is supporting the heroic efforts to return this tree here locally, one that was quite native to Long Island and where we are finding remnant stands.


The Long Island Conservancy, starting this Saturday/Sunday at Summerfest in Sayville, will be selling our American Chestnut seedlings as part of a local breeding program to bring the tree back to our community. Each tree will be sold with an enclosure so that it won’t immediately become deer or rabbit food and live to the 7-10 years it takes for the tree to reach maturity. At that time, we will pollinate the chestnuts with genetically altered pollen so we can breed resistance in.

An American Chestnut Tree Sapling

Support the return of this vital but critically endangered tree, and help to rebuild local habitat and to contribute to The Long Island Conservancy.

You can donate your American Chestnut here. We will plant it in your yard or in a local public park to be named soon.

View of an American Chestnut Orchard

Very recently, a remnant stand of American Chestnuts were discovered near to Lotus Lake — a stunning find! So come by Summerfest then and adopt a tree, and we will help you watch over it long enough to see its children, a generation that could start the whole species over.

Thank you for helping to restore Long Island’s natural beauty!


  1. I am on a search for chestnut seedlings. Can you help me locate where on Long Island I can get trees?

    Thank you

    1. Terrence I just saw this note. Apologies. The company I work with Spadefoot Design and Construction has grown about 200 saplings from locally gathered chestnuts. The problem is that they are all doomed to die of the blight as well. The fungus that killed them starting in 1904 is still present.

      We harvest the nuts from trees that regrew from roots that were still alive before they die too. The saplings then are employed in a breeding program composed of groves of 8 saplings – mother orchards. These chestnuts from these young trees when they come (5-7 years) will be pollinated by a transgenic pollen that will confer blight resistance on half of that next generation of trees.

      We sell Mother Orchards, and with the American Chestnut Foundation, keep tabs on them as they grow and mature. We had 3-4 billion of these trees not so long ago.

      Here is the cost of having a grove purchased for the program:

      Blight resistant American Chestnuts will be valuable. Any American Chestnut at all will be a rare delicacy, once so common. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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