American Chestnut was once a climax forest tree in the Oak-Chestnut dry woodlands of the eastern United States, but since the recognition of the Chestnut blight in1904 in New York, the entire forest population has been destroyed. Most of the intact, living trees in the wild were gone by the 1950's, and all that remains today are a few stump sprouts that still linger (attaining heights of about 25 feet before they succumb to the fungus). The seedlings offered are grown in the West Virginia state nursery, and have shown some resistance to the fungus since 1980.
In Ohio, the central counties of the state on a north-south line marked the most westward boundary of the American Chestnut habitat in the state. American Chestnut was predominately located in the eastern half of Ohio, where the soils are more acidic. Its nuts were a staple food of the Native Americans and pioneers, while its wood was harvested for the production of furniture, musical instruments, caskets, crates, and tannin. Dimensions of 80 feet tall by 60 feet wide were regularly obtained when it was located in the open. As a member of the Beech Family, it is related to the Oaks and the Beeches, in addition to other Chestnuts.
Planting Requirements - American Chestnut is still undergoing extensive breeding to allow its re-introduction as a tree that can not only survive the Chestnut blight fungus and yield large quantities of tasty nuts, but that can successfully compete in dry forests and re-establish itself as a climax forest tree. From a historical (and perhaps future) perspective, the traditional American Chestnut prefers moist, deep, acidic soils in full sun (being shade tolerant in youth), but thrives in dry, rocky soils. It is found in zones 4 to 8.
Potential Problems- Chestnut blight (Endothia parasitica) is the only problem worth mentioning - any and all others pale by comparison. However, young trees from the few remaining stump sprouts are resistant to the fungus for a number of years, even in some cases to the point of being able to bear fruits before becoming infected and dying.
The American Chestnut is one of 8 tree seedlings which will be offered in the 2014 Tree Sale held by the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District. Other seedlings include Douglas fir, Sawtooth oak, White Pine, Butternut, Red Maple, Tulip Poplar, and Black Alder. Also available this year are 2 varieties of apples; Nova Spy and Goldrush. The district will also offer 2 varieties of blueberry; Aurora, and Blue Ray. New this year is a cover crop mix for gardeners. And as usual, the district has high quality all cedar birdfeeders and houses for sale. For more information and to receive an order blank, please call 740-432-5624.