The American Chestnut is a historically and cuturally important tree that unfortunately has a sad story. This species used to be one of the biggest and most numerous trees in the Eastern United States, but it is now considered functionally extinct. In the early 1900’s, the parasitic fungus Cryphonectria parasitica was accidentally introduced to America and caused what we now call the Chestnut Blight. In about 50 years, this pathogen virtually decimated the entire American Chestnut population. This species is not considered extinct because the fungus is only able to kill the above ground portion of the tree, keeping the root system alive. The roots continuously grow new sprouts just to be reinfected long before the tree matures causing a cycle of death and rebirth.
Many efforts are going into trying to restore the tree’s population to its former glory. The three main strategies used are breeding blight-resistant cultivars, incorporating biotechnology to keep them from being infected, and biocontrol, which attempts to use living organisms to control the pathogen. Arbor Walk #111 and other Washington University American Chestnuts all use one of these techniques to hopefully grow mature trees.
|Common Name(s)||American Chestnut|
|Latin Name||Castanea dentata|
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