Connecticut Chapter

Host An Orchard

If you want to play a role in the restoration of the American Chestnut, you can become a partner of TACF and offer a new location for a Germplasm Conservation Orchard (GCO)!

A germplasm conservation orchard (GCO) is an orchard collection of diverse wild American chestnut sources. In partnership with the CT Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (CT-TACF), this orchard would include sources primarily native to CT, though other sources could be planted as well. A GCO generally contains 10 seedlings from 10 different mother trees (100 trees) per acre and is often planted over a period of one to several years, but can be scaled up or down as space and resources allow. Site location is best for a sunny area with well-draining soil and preferably, southern exposure. Old agricultural fields or recently clear-cut patches are suitable and a soil test is performed to determine the nutrient content and see how much replenishment with fertilizer is needed. Most of these trees are started from seed, though grafted or transplanted sources may be used as well. Finding new sources to plant can take some time, and therefore somewhat difficult to predict exactly how many seed will be planted each year. As such, this type of orchard may take several years before fully planted. Annual meetings between CT-TACF and the orchard host will be held at least annually and will help to review the status of the project and also provide a mechanism for planning the upcoming year’s activities.

Successful orchard management tries to mitigate the major sources of mortality for the nuts and trees planted. These include but are not limited to: rodents, raccoons, turkeys, and bears eating the nuts; voles, mice, and deer eating bark or twigs; drought stress; competition from weeds; standing water; insect infestations; and mowing over trees. Trees that are well nourished and watered respond better to most threats than trees that are stressed. Successful orchards respond well to simple management practices, such as maintenance of fencing, periodic weeding, watering and fertilizing. In addition, accurate labelling, record keeping, and data collection are of great importance for tracking and future use of the trees for scientific purposes.

Land Trusts would be the ideal arrangement since the land, access, and purpose is traditionally already established. Two new GCOs planted in April 2021 have Land Trust ties.

Germplasm Conservation Orchard

Suggested Layout

A blocked layout that keeps genotypes together is recommended. This is the simplest way to keep sources clear. A wide buffer between blocks allows for good pollination access. With this design, orchard managers will need to resist the urge to plant within the buffer rows, especially while trees are small. It is also important that any replacements are only made with the same genotype.

A six-block example:

Pollination and Harvest

As trees grow old enough to begin flowering, they may be used for transgenic diversification or other crosses of interest. Chestnuts start flowering in June, with full bloom coming in early-mid July. For controlled pollinations, flowers are typically bagged in late June or early July, pollinated 10-14 days later, and harvested in late September or early October. Pollination requires working directly with the flowers and is typically done from a ladder or bucket truck, though small trees may be pollinated from the ground. As more trees begin flower the potential also exists for harvesting open-pollinated nuts. These may be used for TACF science programs, eating, or both.

Blight Control Measures

As wild-type American sources, the trees in a GCO are not expected to have any blight resistance and blight will eventually move through the orchard. Main stems will be killed over time and should be allowed to re-sprout. There are some methods that could be used to try to keep them alive longer. Mudpacking can be used and is most effective if cankers are caught early. Assessing the trees for blight annually (or more frequently), so mudpacking can be planned for, is helpful. Hypovirulence treatment is also a possibility, though not currently widely available.

Further Reading to Assess Expectations

A sample Orchard Management Plan
A sample CT GCO agreement
An article (page 15) from the Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Interested parties should contact the Connecticut chapter for more details.

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Who's up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/).

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! tacf.org/events
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Whos up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (https://tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (https://tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/). 

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! https://tacf.org/events

Yes! The 2023 Annual Report of The American Chestnut Foundation is here! We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of TACF volunteers, collaborators, supporters, and staff in our 40th year.

This beautiful report reads more like a magazine and is packed with inspiration, beautiful graphics, and gratitude to the people like you you who made all of this work possible. Sure, we had our share of ups and downs in 2023, but together we're moving forward stronger and filled with optimism. Here's to another great year of progress toward restoring the American chestnut!

View the Annual Report here: tacf.org/about-us/financials/
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2 days ago
The American Chestnut Foundation

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The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, once dominated portions of the eastern U.S. forests. Numbering nearly four billion, the tree was among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing in these forests. The range extended from Mississippi to southern Ontario and as far northeast as Maine.

In the late 1800’s a deadly blight from Asia was introduced, and in about 50 years, the pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica, reduced the American chestnut from its huge heights to a tree that now grows mostly as an early-successional-stage shrub.

Despite its demise, the American chestnut is not extinct. The blight cannot kill the underground root system, and stump sprouts grow vigorously in cutover or disturbed sites where there is plenty of sunlight, but inevitably succumb to the blight.

The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree through scientific research and breeding, and to restore the tree to its native range in the eastern United States.

Visit our website tacf.org to learn more about this iconic tree species.
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The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, once dominated portions of the eastern U.S. forests. Numbering nearly four billion, the tree was among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing in these forests. The range extended from Mississippi to southern Ontario and as far northeast as Maine. 

In the late 1800’s a deadly blight from Asia was introduced, and in about 50 years, the pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica, reduced the American chestnut from its huge heights to a tree that now grows mostly as an early-successional-stage shrub. 

Despite its demise, the American chestnut is not extinct. The blight cannot kill the underground root system, and stump sprouts grow vigorously in cutover or disturbed sites where there is plenty of sunlight, but inevitably succumb to the blight. 

The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree through scientific research and breeding, and to restore the tree to its native range in the eastern United States. 

Visit our website tacf.org to learn more about this iconic tree species.

19 CommentsComment on Facebook

I hope they are successful. It was a mighty tree.

I planted two hybrid American Chestnuts in southern Minnesota....fingers crossed this spring

I hope they are successful.

Barnwood Builders on TV occasionally comes across a cabin or barn with timber made from the chestnut tree. The wood is beautiful.

I would love to hear an update on the state lands that had a forest fire a few years back in I think Tennessee or North Carolina? The area had many stump sprouts that stay like that because the sunlight can’t get to them to shoot to the sky . Well I would like to know if anyone has been to the forest to see the American chestnut sprouts that should be up above the other slow growing trees that will resprout . Can we get a update please

There were two cut down at the end of our street in NJ. I’m sure the root system could be worked to start new trees

I know of 2 Americans Chestnuts in the Fort Mill SC area. Or I did. My grandfather used to point them out all the time when we were hunting in the woods. But this area has grown up so much I don’t know if they’re there anymore. They were maybe 200 yards off of Sugar Creek down towards the Lancaster/York county line. He would always talk about how many there used to be.

Been reading about American chestnut resurrection for forty years. I just ignore it now.

So when y'all gonna drop 'em on us? I got yard space mapped out for it.

I’ve been waiting my entire adult life for the return of the American Chestnut. Year after year it seems to never get any closer. With genetic science, gene splicing and the like, it seems like it should be right around the corner. I hope I get to live long enough to see that day.

Anyone know how many documented survivors there are?

Any idea when gmo chestnut will be released?

This map is missing a big area of SE Michigan where chestnut historically grew.

Our greatest ecological disaster.

What level of blight resistance has TACF achieved at this point?

When you take into account the enormous economic impact this blight created, pretty sure it was a contributing factor in the great depression. Homesteaders and landowners in a HUGE section of the east coast suddenly lost a MAJOR cash crop in just a few short years, the chestnuts themselves, which were used for both human and livestock consumption, and shipped across the country in railcars. Wildlife of all manner depended on the chestnuts, and they suffered a dramatic decline in numbers because of the blight. Wildlife populations plummeted because of the sudden loss of massive amounts of food. The wood itself was highly prized, being insect and rot resistant. One of the most sought after woods in America, and logged heavily. It is estimated that there were once over 3 BILLION healthy, mature trees before the blight. Now there are just a handful of healthy trees in the entire country.

Before climate change?

It's gone. The passenger pigeon is gone. The economic activity from a century ago is gone. It's done, y'all.

“… Across the Northeast, forests are haunted by the ghosts of American giants. A little more than a century ago, these woods brimmed with American chestnuts—stately Goliaths that could grow as high as 130 feet tall and more than 10 feet wide. Nicknamed “the redwoods of the East,” some 4 billion American chestnuts dotted the United States’ eastern flank, stretching from the misty coasts of Maine down into the thick humidity of Appalachia. …Susan Freinkel noted in her 2009 book, “a perfect tree.” Its wood housed birds and mammals; its leaves infused the soil with minerals; its flowers sated honeybees that would ferry pollen out to nearby trees. In the autumn, its branches would bend under the weight of nubby grape-size nuts. When they dropped to the forest floor, they’d nourish raccoons, bears, turkey, and deer. For generations, Indigenous people feasted on the nuts, split the wood for kindling, and laced the leaves into their medicine. Later on, European settlers, too, introduced the nuts into their recipes and orchards, and eventually learned to incorporate the trees’ sturdy, rot-resistant wood into fence posts, telephone poles, and railroad ties. The chestnut became a tree that could shepherd people “from cradle to grave,” …” www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/12/american-chestnut-perfect-tree-restoration/676927/

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And the winner of the 2023 TACF Photo Contest is…… Lily Zeporah!
Many congratulations to Lily for her beautiful winning image titled “Shining Hope.”

Here is the story behind her journey of discovery:

“This special tree was found in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on Harkening Hill near Bedford, Virginia. I was photographing treehoppers on the branches of a large sapling and suddenly noticed that its oddly shaped leaves were unlike anything I had ever seen. Following a course of events that included research, a return trip, and a flat mailer, samples were sent to Cassie Stark at the Virginia Department of Forestry who verified them to be from a genuine American Chestnut.
My interest and passion for this tree started with my parents, who are also avid outdoor enthusiasts. Hearing stories about the elusive Chestnut and their historic fame made it seem like finding one would be akin to discovering Black Beard's treasure. But even better than musty old gold, finding a young Chestnut tree gives us shining hope for the future of a species trying to survive against the odds.”

Lily will take home a free TACF membership, a bunch of TACF merch, and her image will be featured on the spring issue of Chestnut magazine!

Many thanks to all who participated in TACF's 2023 Photo Contest and keep your eyes peeled for info about the 2024 contest this spring.
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And the winner of the 2023 TACF Photo Contest is…… Lily Zeporah!
Many congratulations to Lily for her beautiful winning image titled “Shining Hope.” 

Here is the story behind her journey of discovery:

“This special tree was found in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on Harkening Hill near Bedford, Virginia. I was photographing treehoppers on the branches of a large sapling and suddenly noticed that its oddly shaped leaves were unlike anything I had ever seen. Following a course of events that included research, a return trip, and a flat mailer, samples were sent to Cassie Stark at the Virginia Department of Forestry who verified them to be from a genuine American Chestnut. 
My interest and passion for this tree started with my parents, who are also avid outdoor enthusiasts. Hearing stories about the elusive Chestnut and their historic fame made it seem like finding one would be akin to discovering Black Beards treasure. But even better than musty old gold, finding a young Chestnut tree gives us shining hope for the future of a species trying to survive against the odds.”

Lily will take home a free TACF membership, a bunch of TACF merch, and her image will be featured on the spring issue of Chestnut magazine! 

Many thanks to all who participated in TACFs 2023 Photo Contest and keep your eyes peeled for info about the 2024 contest this spring.

2 CommentsComment on Facebook

Beautiful

Congrats Lily, beautiful picture and a very thoughtful, well-written accompanying story!

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