American Chestnut

Historical Chestnut trees image American chestnut once accounted for 25 percent of the trees in the eastern deciduous forest of North America. The trees reached sixty to eighty feet high and grew five to six feet in diameter. Around 1900 a fungal chestnut blight came from Asia on imported nursery stock and affected 99 percent of the American chestnut trees. While the trunks of the trees died, new shoots arose from the roots that were still alive. However, after a century of blight, the second generation shoots are dying also. Soon, the nutrition stored in the roots will be expended, as well.
Chestnut SeedlingIn the fall of 1999, Native America planted eight American chestnuts on its preserve in Hauppauge. These nuts were gathered from trees found on Long Island that still managed to bear flowers. Since the trees need to be cross pollinated and they were so far apart, they were hand pollinated.
Chestnut tree seedling with protective animal guard.Of the eight nuts planted, six sprouted in the spring of 2000. To safeguard the trees from curious squirrels, mice and rabbits, the plants were grown in wire mesh cages. While young chestnut sprouts are also a favorite of whitetail deer, suburban Hauppauge no longer has any wandering by.
Chestnut saplingThree plants were in shaded areas and three were in open sunlight. As of 2003, the three in the shade have grown to one foot tall and the three in the sun have grown to five feet tall. Needless to say, chestnut trees respond very ambitiously to the sight of the sun.
Healthy Chestnut Tree TrunkThe bark of young chestnut trees is smooth and has a green hue to it. When healthy it is tight against the trunk and free of defects right down to the ground.
Fungal infection (Chryphonectria parasitica) on young Chestnut tree trunk.In the summer of 2003, with twice the normal rainfall, the blight fungus appeared at the base of two of the larger chestnut trees on the preserve. The cankered bark appeared orange and was striated, torn and bulging. The fungus (Chryphonectria parasitica) has entered the cambium layer just under the bark and is suffocating the trees. In an attempt to survive, one of the young trees has sent up a small shoot to bypass the fungal disease.
Mud Collar on Chestnut Tree TrunkIn the fall of 2003, Native America took a preliminary step to treat the fungal infection. One method is "mud-packing". A retaining collar is placed around the blighted area. (The material may be rubber, plastic or metal. Native America chose rubber with an adhesive coating.) Next, soil from the area is placed into the collar and watered till wet. There are a number of other fungi, along with soil bacteria, that feed upon blight fungus. When the canker is covered with soil, the blight fungus is then consumed by these "beneficial" fungi and bacteria. However, depending upon the soil and the extent of the infection, the method may or may not work.
Mud Collar on Chestnut Tree TrunkIn October of 2004, the mud-packing collar was checked on one of the saplings that contracted the blight that was mud-packed in 2003. The ominous signs of blight were already visible extending above the mud-packed base, even before the collar was removed. Two things can be learned from this disappointment. The collar should be extended a good distance from the point of infection to contain the fungal spread. And further attempts need to be made to increase the odds of including the soil microorganisms that parasitize the blight fungus.