Chestnuts at Lesesne State Forest

On Saturday, September 16th Tom Wild led walks for both RMN and CATS members at the Chestnut orchards in Lesesne State Forest. It was a perfect late summer day and a wonderful way to spend some time together outdoors. We Learned about the history of the land, which was donated for American Chestnut tree research and the tree breeding program work being done to save this tree.

Tom explained the human assisted pollination method by using collected pollen, cutting off the tree’s male catkins and bagging the female flowers. This ensures that the researchers know the parent’s genetics and the ratio of Chinese to American characteristics of the resulting nuts.  A bucket truck is used to work in the tree’s canopy to install the bags.

Some bags have an additional mesh covering due to the sensitive nature of the research providing extra protection from wind and critters.

Tom went on to describe the differences in the bark due to age or the presence of chestnut blight. Leaves, burs, nuts and bark were examined and the details that distinguish the difference between an American and a Chinese Chestnut were discussed.

Trees we visited at a second location in the forest have an interesting experimental history. The rootstock was irradiated, the parent trees died and then American Chestnuts were grafted onto the root base. 

Many thanks to Tom for this wonderfully informative and interesting talk and tour of the site at Lesesne State Forrest.

Photo credit: JoAnn Dalley

Top Tree photo: M. Spear