You have an opportunity to bring back a species from near-extinction: The American Chestnut. All but obliterated by the Chinese Chestnut Blight, this tree was the dominant tree of the forests of the Eastern Seaboard. In 1904, at the advent of the blight, caused by the importation of a diseased tree from China, there were an estimated 3-4 billion trees.
Today, one finds occasionally a remnant tree, one that regrew from its roots. There’s a window then where this young tree will grow chestnuts before it succumbs to the fungus, which is now pervasive in our environment. We harvest these local chestnuts, climbing to the canopy, then hand-pollinate them. We have so far grown two hundred saplings from this harvesting.
We are bundling these saplings into American Chestnut orchards, eight in a group. As they start to produce chestnuts in 5-7 years, we will pollinate them with a blight-resistant pollen that SUNY-ESF has developed that includes a gene from wheat that renders this next generation (or half of it) blight resistant.
American Chestnut trees are highly prolific, and will be much in demand when they start to produce. Few are alive who have roasted an actual American Chestnut. Blight resistant chestnut saplings will be quite rare. In time, we can start making furniture and carvings from American Chestnut wood, and return that craft and that industry too!
Here is how we will build your American Chestnut orchard:
- Removal of all invasive and otherwise undesirable vegetation (less than 1.5 inch caliper).
- Establishment of the 250 square ft orchard.
- Natural mulch to aid in the establishment of the plants
- Fencing to protect baby chestnuts from deer and rabbit browse
- Installation of temporary above ground irrigation to be connected to a spigot🚰
- Eight LI wild type hand pollinated chestnuts 🌰
- Entrance into the breeding program
What if you could be a part of bringing back this noble and important tree?