For thousands of years after the last glacial period, the American Chestnut, Castanea Dentata, dominated the eastern Deciduous Forests of the eastern United States, making up 25% to 30% of the forest canopy of Long Island’s hardwood forests. Growing over 100 to 120 ft tall and having a circumference over 10ft in diameter, these trees were an awe-inspiring sight to behold.
As the predominant tree species on the island, it played a major ecological role as a key stone species. From black bears to white-tailed deer, from turkeys to bees, the American Chestnut brought tons of sweet delicious nuts to all Long Island’s wildlife. The tree’s straight grained and rot resistant wood made it the perfect tree for woodworks, allowing them to build everything from houses, cribs, and other items. The chestnuts, being the sweetest on the planet, were highly coveted, making them a highly profitable food nut tree for people. However, this would not last.
A century ago, a bark disease called the Chestnut Blight, which was accidentally transported over from China, spread quickly throughout the native range of the American Chestnut, killing around 3-4 billion American Chestnuts within 50 years. Although a few did survive, many can not grow to maturity and often die back to then repeat the whole process all over. As a result, many scientists have working around the clock trying to figure out how to help save these trees from certain extinction. At SUNY’s College for Environmental Sciences & Forestry, they have created the first blight tolerant American Chestnut tree that has been proven to withstand the blight. With this in mind, WE NEED YOU TO HELP FIND HEALTHY AMERICAN CHESTNUT TREES!
With the blight-tolerant American Chestnut trees getting closer to federal approval, it is important to find living specimens on Long Island to help reintroduce local genetic examples. That way we can help preserve our native stock’s genetics, and the trees themselves, for future generations to come.
Join our Hunt for the American Chestnut Challenge using iNaturalist to identify & geolocate trees in the wild. The first 30 people who accurately identify & geolocate a specimen will receive a Save The Great South Bay bumper sticker. Find one that is producing nuts and/or Burrs & we will send you your very own American Chestnut seedling to grow at home.
Email me at [email protected] with any questions.