Once a dominant species in the eastern U. S., the American Chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Georgia, from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until a lethal fungus functionally eliminated it from the landscape during the first half of the 20th century.
Once the mighty giants of the eastern forests, American Chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall and numbered in the billions. This iconic species was a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife, and an essential component of the economy.
In 1904, the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight was accidentally imported from Asia, and the blight spread rapidly through the American chestnut population. By 1950 it killed virtually all the mature trees from Maine to Georgia. Several attempts to breed blight-resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.
In 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation and began a special breeding process, backcross breeding, which in 2005 produced the first potentially blight-resistant trees called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. Now, assisted by nearly 6,000 members and volunteers in 16 state chapters, the organization is undertaking the planting of Restoration Chestnuts 1.0 in select locations throughout the eastern U.S. as part of the Foundation’s early restoration efforts.
Meadowview Research Farms
The American Chestnut Foundation conducts the bulk of its breeding research in Meadowview, VA. There, over six generations and thousands of trees, TACF will develop a blight-resistant tree. Thirteen chapters from Maine to Alabama work on finding surviving trees and establishing chestnut tree nurseries to develop blight resistant American chestnut adapted to the various ecological areas throughout the East.
TACF is a 501(c)(3) conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC. For more information about TACF and its work to restore the American Chestnut tree, contact TACF Director of Communications Ruth Gregory at (828) 281-0047, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.acf.org.
Memorial Planting of Rare, Potentially Blight-resistance American Chestnut Trees in Polk County!
On Saturday, February 7, 2015, The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) directed a memorial planting of four potentially blight-resistant American Chestnut trees at Harmon Field in Tryon, NC, as well as four American Chestnut trees at the PAC protected Norman Wilder Forest. This planting is a living memorial to Mara Smith, local photographer and writer, who died February 5, 2014.
This is a partnership between Ford Smith & family, The American Chestnut Foundation, Harmon Field/The Town of Tryon, and the Pacolet Area Conservancy.
Click here to hear Tom Saielli, Southern Regional Science Coordinator for the American Chestnut Foundation, summarizes the purpose and importance of reintroduction efforts by the Foundation and the public.
On February 21, 2016, an additional eight American Chestnut seeds, obtained in 2015 and germinated that year, were planted at Norman Wilder Forest.
For more information about The American Chestnut Foundation, click here