Kush-Hara Farm

2013

 
 

American Chestnuts

Before the blight struck in the early 1900s, American chestnut trees were considered the “old growth” species of the East.  Mature stands could be 600 years old, average five feet in diameter, and grow up to 100 feet tall.  The record specimen from North Carolina measure 16.5 feet in diameter!

Chestnut trees represented one-quarter of hardwood trees in its range, and it’s said that when the trees bloomed along the Appalachian ridges, the mountains appeared to be snow-capped.

The American chestnut:  Post-Blight

The “death” of the American chestnut forest  had a profound impact on the economy and ecology of America.

A RURAL WAY OF LIFE

American chestnut was once a central part of eastern rural communities. The nuts were harvested and sent by railroad car-loads to big cities where they were fresh-roasted by street vendors.  Chestnuts were also considered by most cooks to be the essential ingredient in the holiday stuffing for roast turkey or goose.

LUMBER

Because American chestnut was straight grained, lighter than oak, and as rot-resistant as redwood, its lumber had a broad range of uses including: post and beam construction, paneling, fine furniture, musical instruments, railroad ties, and split-rail fencing.  The tree also provided tannin for the tanning industry!

NATIVE WILDLIFE

Native wildlife, especially bear, deer, turkey and squirrels, depended on the nutritional nuts from the American chestnut.   After the blight, wildlife populations plummeted in many areas and have never returned to their former level.

 

A sad story about a beautiful tree -- the American Chestnut.

Unfortunately, this story is being repeated with our native ash tree. Learn more about the new problem, the Emerald Ash Borer, and see what you can do to help!

LATIN NAME  Castanea dentata

RANGE  Maine to Georgia and west to the Ohio Valley

BLIGHT  The Cryphonectria parasitica, accidently imported from Asia, was first discovered in 1904 at the Bronx Zoo.