Planting Nuts

TTwo weeks ago a friend sent me a picture. \”Know what these are?\” he asked.


\”I believe those are CHESTNUTS!\” I replied.

Days later he delivered a container to me containing about 16 chestnuts.  He told me the whereabouts of the tree and said the owner believed it to be a purebred pre-blight American Chestnut Tree.  So, it may or may not be blight resistant.  My friend seemed to think that it was the only Chestnut in the immediate area but about half of the nuts were round and healthy looking.  It was my understanding that it would require more chestnut trees to wind pollinate but perhaps that has to do with the percentage of healthy nuts.

The American Chestnut has a strangely quiet history considering they are nearly extinct.  I was first alerted to the issue at a local native plant and wildlife fair at Overlook Park.   There was a representative from the American Chestnut Foundation there.  In a few short sentences, she gave me the elevator pitch of the tree\’s plight.  An ember flew onto my heart and there glowed until it was recently ignited.  I hope to light that same spark for anyone who stumbles upon this little blog post.  Around 1904, the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica was introduced to America from Japanese nursery stock.  What followed was panic in the country.  It spread very quickly.  In part, this was due to increased activity in the Chestnut woods of Appalachia.  At any hint of blight, trees were cut, even if they would have survived basically obliterating the chance for natural selection to produce blight-resistant trees.  Prior to the blight. The woods around the Central PA area were rich with very old and big American Chestnut trees, members of the Beech family.   Now, you would be hard-pressed to find survivors of the blight.  There are a number of ecological education and preservation organizations who are working with selective breeding and DNA to produce blight-resistant strains of the American Chestnut.


I recently asked my wife if I could use our garden, in part, as a tree nursery.  She didn\’t make a final decision but it\’s my birthday so I went ahead and did it. (I\’ll ask for forgiveness later) . I planted 12 chestnuts in the garden about an inch or so below the soil line on their sides.  I also planted about 8 butternuts, 6 shagbark hickory, 12 pignut hickory and about 6 acorns I had lying around.  I covered the beds with some straw and dogwood leaves to hopefully protect the soil a bit, provide some fresh decomposition and encourage fungal growth in the springtime.  I expect that some animals will dig about half of these up, perhaps another 25% will not sprout due to mold or some sort of imperfect condition.  I\’m hoping for a 25% yield and will definitely update this post with the results!

The reason I\’m planting now is my understanding about stratification (wintering or scoring of the hard shells) for successful nut sprouting.  I\’m going to just let the winter do it in conditions that will mimic its life in Pennsylvania.




For more information about the American Chestnut visit The American Chestnut Foundation\’s website. There\’s a ton of information on the PA chapter\’s site.  Or take a look at this book that\’s now on my Amazon wishlist — American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree

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