Academic journal article Science and Children

Returning Chestnuts

Academic journal article Science and Children

Returning Chestnuts

Article excerpt

The American chestnut was a dominant species in the eastern region of the United States, until a blight wiped it out of the nation's forests in the early 1900s. According to University of Tennessee (UT) alumna Stacy Clark, the chestnuts will be returned to the region in a conservation effort.

Clark, also lead researcher with the U.S. Forest Service restoration project, said that her work--in cooperation with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and the UT Tree Improvement Program (UT TIP)--has resulted in test plantings of blight-resistant trees in three southern national forests. Clark said they are 94% pure American chestnuts (the remaining 6%, derived from the Chinese chestnut tree, accounts for their blight resistance).

"The American chestnut grows straight and tall, is highly valuable, and has highly flavored edible nuts," she said. "We want the trees to look and act like an American chestnut. But they have to have the resistance genes from the Chinese chestnut. That's the only way they're going to survive."

The young trees appear healthy, but results from tree experiments come slowly, even for a fast-growing tree like the chestnut.

"We'll know in about five years whether or not the trees will be successful in early establishment," Clark said. …

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