On Tuesday, November 15 at 1 pm there will be a ceremonial planting of a potentially blight-resistant chestnut on the grounds of the North Carolina Arboretum.
The planting is significant because the American chestnut once flourished in mountains of Western North Carolina and its loss in the 1930s and 40s was devastating to both the economy and the environment. This planting celebrates the first steps of the American chestnut's return to the region's forests.
The planting will take place in the Arboretum's Canopy Garden and will be performed by staff of the NC Arboretum and The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF®). A short talk will be given by Bryan Burhans, President and CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation.
Once the mighty giant of our eastern forests, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. They were a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife and an essential component of the human economy. In 1904 a blight, accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the American chestnut population. By 1950 the blight fungus had killed virtually all the mature trees from Maine to Georgia. Several attempts to breed blight-resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.
Then in 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation and began a special breeding process, which in 2005 produced the first potentially blight-resistant trees called Restoration Chestnuts. Now assisted by nearly 6,000 members and volunteers in 23 states, the organization is undertaking the planting of Restoration Chestnuts in select locations throughout the eastern U.S. as part of the Foundation’s early restoration and testing efforts.
The seedlings planted at the N.C. Arboretum are part of TACF’s restoration process. Now one year old and several feet tall, the chestnut trees will be carefully monitored as they mature.
TACF, founded in 1983, is a 501 (c) 3 conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC. For more information on TACF and its national breeding program, visit www.acf.org.