American Chestnut

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geocash
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American Chestnut

Post by geocash » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:48 pm

In the Knife Restoration and Repair Forum there's a topic Look Mom I Cobbled a Canal Street. It was getting off the subject, or at least I was, so I thought I'd be safe running my mouth over here.

I understand American chestnut trees made up at least a quarter of the forest here in the southern Appalachian Mountains before the blight was introduced. An Asian fungus, it was first noticed in a NY in 1904 & spread quickly down the Appalachians. By the middle of the 1930s practically all American chestnut, and most chinquapin, trees were infected if not already dead, above ground. Once a sapling or stump sprout gets old enough that the bark starts fissuring, the fungus can gain entry. It doesn't infect the tree below ground but eventually it dies below ground also from the lack of leaves to produce food. In the late 1950s I remember most of the trunks in the mountains around here were on the ground. Even now I occasionally see what appear to be seedling American chestnuts and for years I couldn't figure out where the nuts were coming from. Then I realized that what I was seeing were not seedlings but stump sprouts, still emerging from a tree that was likely hundreds of years old when the top died but the root was so massive & robust that it can still send up sprouts almost a hundred years later. Blows my mind.

One reason the chestnut was so important to wildlife is that it would produce a heavy crop every year, unlike oaks & hickories which produce well some years & almost nothing other years. The chestnut trunks that fell & were left on the ground have all rotted & returned to the soil with a very few exceptions. Since chestnut logs typically rot from the inside out, hollow logs were used as culverts for logging roads to cross streams. The few I've found are waterlogged.

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Waukonda » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:17 pm

That is some great info, geocash, really enjoyed reading this post. I know of one Chestnut tree in my area, (S.Illinois), which would be outside of the natural range. I remember the first time I came across it and saw some of the nuts on the ground. I was not familiar with Chestnuts at all, and I first thought I was looking at some type of deformed acorn from a Bur Oak and then I thought maybe Buckeye. It wasnt until I picked it up and removed the husk that I realized it was a Chestnut.
I also didn't realize that there was a Chinquapin Chestnut, at first, I thought you meant Chinquapin Oak, until I read up on the Chestnut. Thanks for the post, always glad to pick up new (to me) info on trees.
Ike

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by eveled » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:27 pm

Like I said in the other post. I have two chestnut root balls that send up saplings that’s die. They would make nice walking sticks. But not much else.

One of mine had maybe 15 dead standing saplings and one live one. If one comes up every 5 years then that is 75 years of growth. Pretty amazing.

Really sad what was lost with the chestnut trees.

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Mumbleypeg » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:52 pm

When my son lived in NW Tennessee he had numerous huge and healthy chestnut trees in his yard, some of them 70+ feet tall and 3 to 4 feet across, so they weren’t young trees. They even learned how to roast the nuts. It’s a common tree thereabouts. Were those a different type of chestnut?

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by just bob » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:04 am

I didn't even know this problem existed. I am going to make a small donation to the cause. I'll also try and get some info and plant at least one tree in our local nature preserve area. Last year we planted some Tulip Poplar.

https://www.acf.org/
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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Froe » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:24 am

I remember my Dad taking me chinquapin hunting when I was a kid in Mitchell County NC. I loved the chestnut taste. The trees didn't get that tall before they would blight like chestnuts. The 'chinkypens' were inside a burr so I'd beat them out on a flat rock. I'd take my paper poke of chinkypens to school to snack on. But if I forgot them over the weekend sometimes the little white worms would come out of them and I'd have to clean out the desk and throw them away.
My father toldl me about hauling the fallen chestnut logs out of the mountains behind teams with his father in the thirties.
As a young man I would hear rumors of chestnut trees that still survived, but I never saw one.
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Re: American Chestnut

Post by geocash » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:52 am

Mumbleypeg wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:52 pm
When my son lived in NW Tennessee he had numerous huge and healthy chestnut trees in his yard, some of them 70+ feet tall and 3 to 4 feet across, so they weren’t young trees. They even learned how to roast the nuts. It’s a common tree thereabouts. Were those a different type of chestnut?

Ken
I hope they were native chestnuts but I would be surprised if they were. Chinese chestnuts are often resistant to the fungus that's almost completely wiped out American chestnuts. Chinese chestnuts are commonly cultivated in my area but I'm not aware of any becoming naturalized or establishing themselves in the wild. They typically have several trunks and a lower canopy than American chestnuts but they were planted and grown with less competition. American chestnuts grew before logging cleared most of the Southern Appalachian forest. They had to put all their effort into reaching the sun & so they were generally very tall & had one straight trunk. I can think of only three American chestnuts I've found that produce some nuts but they are all covered with cankers & look like they're about dead. And they all are growing above 4,000 feet. I believe the American Chestnut Society has developed a hybrid that is 15/16 American & 1/16 Chinese that closely resembles the native but is resistant to the fungus. I ran across one experimental plot of chestnuts on Forest Service property with tags on different hybrids but I've not been able to acquire one of my own.

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Colonel26 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:22 am

I have searched online for places to get hold of the hybrids but haven’t had any luck. I’d gladly participate in the program to reestablish them.

Seems I read on the acf website once upon a time that there were actually a handful of chestnut trees found that were somehow immune to the blight and they were used to start the crosses. Lumber, wildlife, and fodder for hogs; the chestnut was a very important tree.
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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Mumbleypeg » Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:23 am

Thanks. Those I saw in Tennessee were single trunked, very tall, straight, upright trees. The lowest branches were probably 40 to 50 feet from the ground. Definitely not multi-trunk trees. Not sure how old the trees were as they were there before the house was built. All I know is they called them chestnuts and there was a good crop of nuts every year. (Seems like most of them fell in the swimming pool!) :lol:

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by geocash » Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:34 am

Mumbleypeg wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:23 am
Thanks. Those I saw in Tennessee were single trunked, very tall, straight, upright trees. The lowest branches were probably 40 to 50 feet from the ground. Definitely not multi-trunk trees. Not sure how old the trees were as they were there before the house was built.

Ken
Ken, I'm challenged a lot but you've got me stumped. I really wish I knew. If you find out more I'd like to hear it.

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Mumbleypeg » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:01 am

After reading this thread I doubt they were Southern chestnuts too, but I’m also stumped. I never gave it a thought at the time, just was told they were chestnut trees. I’ll ask my son if he knows, or can find out what they are. He has lived in Lubbock TX for several years but one of his friends when he lived in TN was a forestry professor at UT Martin. He would know.

If I find out I’ll let you know.

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Mumbleypeg » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:13 am

::facepalm:: Just talked to my son. They were hickory trees! I guess I was having a “senior moment”. ::facepalm::

(Don’t tell my wife!) :lol:

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by Colonel26 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:24 am

Mumbleypeg wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:13 am
::facepalm:: Just talked to my son. They were hickory trees! I guess I was having a “senior moment”. ::facepalm::

(Don’t tell my wife!) :lol:

Ken
I feel your pain!

I have a yard and field FULL of two different kinds of hickory nut trees. My middle boy makes very good use of them in his slingshots!
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Re: American Chestnut

Post by ea42 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:14 am

I've read that the chestnut trees were so numerous in the south that when they bloomed entire mountainsides turned pure white and looked as if it had snowed. They were huge trees too, with many living two to three centuries! Here's a photo of a grove in North Carolina around 1910:
American-Chestnuts-in-North-Carolina-in-1910.jpg
I often daydream of what it would have been like to wander through an Eastern old growth forest when they were still in pristine condition. I've read that the canopy was so dense and unbroken that you could hypothetically start at the coast and jump from treetop to treetop, never touching the ground till you hit the Mississippi. It must have been spectacular.

Here's a very recent article that appeared in one of our local papers:

https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2020/01/13/ ... your-help/

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Re: American Chestnut

Post by eveled » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:17 am

A glimmer of hope! Thanks for posting that.

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