KY-TACF Chapter Pollinations in Daniel Boone National Forest

An overview of KY-TACF Chapter members pollinating a wild-type American chestnut tree in the Red River Gorge.

Throughout the summer, KY-TACF Chapter members and volunteers have searched for wild-type American chestnut trees in the Red River Gorge Geological Area of Daniel Boone National Forest, an area known to have a number of surviving American chestnuts. Volunteers seek to take record of, collect data on, and sample from some of the trees found.

Using the TreeSnap mobile app, participants were able to capture data and locations of sampled trees. Rather than “snapping” every tree, volunteers prioritize recording larger trees and representative samples. KY-TACF is particularly interested in recording larger trees that receive enough sunlight through the canopy to grow, hopefully, to the point of flowering. These trees are recorded on a tracking list to check again in following summers.

To date, 1,164 entries of American chestnut observations in Kentucky have been entered into TreeSnap, with an estimated 3,000 + trees of all sizes found. Utilizing those observations in June 2020, and again in June 2021, volunteers then checked for flowers on trees known to have substantial size and sun exposure. A very low percentage of these trees actually develop flowers.

A number of pollination teams visit those trees to collect male pollen from the catkins, and hope to find female flowers within reach to pollinate and bag. We will return to those few trees in the fall to collect the pollinated burs with their valuable nuts that can be planted in the chapter’s Germplasm Conservation Orchards.

Photos by Ken Darnell

Ken Darnell, KY-TACF Chapter President