Saving the American Chestnut Trees

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The American chestnut once dominated Tennessee forests. But in the early 1900s, a blight almost entirely wiped out the species.

Thanks in part to the efforts of UT alum Stacy Clark, the tree could make a comeback. Clark, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, is testing blight-resistant trees that are 94 percent American chestnut and 6 percent Chinese chestnut.

“The American chestnut grows straight and tall, is highly valuable and has highly flavored edible nuts,” Clark explains. “All that differs from the Chinese. We want the trees to look and act like an American chestnut. But they have to have the resistance genes from Chinese chestnut.”

While the work and research will take years, re-establishing the American chestnut will have significant economic potential for Tennessee, as well as an impact on other trees facing similar fates. “If we are successful, this will be one of the greatest triumphs in the history of forest conservation,” Clark says.

Click the link to find out more about Tennessee’s tree species restoration efforts.

6 Comments

  1. Bob

    November 22, 2011 at 5:09 am

    I appreciate the effort on trying to establish Chestnuts back in Tennessee, where can we acquire sapplings..??? I have a property crying out for new varieties… i’m wanting to make my part of TN as diverse in natural spicies… so can you help???

    Regards – Bob

    • Blair Thomas

      November 22, 2011 at 9:56 am

      Bob,
      So glad to hear you’d like to help with this! To learn more about Tennessee’s tree species restoration efforts, you can visit the University of Tennessee Tree Improvement Program’s website: http://treeimprovement.utk.edu/home.htm. There you’ll find information about plantings and seed zones and what you can do to help.

      Thanks for reading!

      Blair Thomas
      Tennessee Home & Farm

  2. Bill Rhodes

    January 18, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    A friend who lives in Oak Grove ,Ky ,sent some chestnuts that she claims are ok to eat .
    I thought all chestnut trees were killed by a blight years ago . Yet in the 1950’s my uncle
    had a small tree . Could that have been the case in Gown City, PA? I’m well aware of
    what a Horse Chestnut is.

    Thanks for your help,
    Bill

  3. Wayne (Doc) Georgiades

    March 29, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    the Chestnut tree was responsible for feeding the animals in the forest all over Tennessee. from squirrels to elk that roamed wild from early 1800 to 1900. these trees also enjoyed a human following and became a great holiday food for everyone to enjoy. they are very tasty and are packed with protein. Great for all of Gods creatures. I really want to plant several trees ,on my property and at a lease ground I have in Perry county.
    They are not self pollinating what would you use and where would you find both, near Gallatin Tennessee.

    • J l breeden

      September 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      I would like to plant a couple of chestnut trees. Who do I contact about obtaining sapplings?

      • Jessy Yancey

        September 2, 2018 at 8:12 am

        I am not sure if they have saplings, but for more details about growing chestnut trees, please contact the University of Tennessee’s Tree Improvement program at http://treeimprovement.utk.edu/home.htm. Hope this helps!

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