Native American Chestnut Comeback?

Discussion in 'Native Habitat Management' started by cagantpr, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    On my 45 acre hunting property, I was able to identify 18 native American chestnuts last winter. For some reason, they held their dead leaves similar to the white oaks which made them very easy to spot in the woods.

    Many of them are small (under 8 feet) but some have grown quite large (up to 45 feet and a 5 inch diameter at 4.5 ft). Only 2 of my trees show signs of blight. I don't believe coincidentally, these 2 trees are both approximately 15 ft tall and are growing from dead stumps. All of the other trees are on their own so I am assuming have grown from seed.

    I thought I might be onto some amazing discovery, so this past spring, I sent twig and leaf samples to the ACF-PA branch from my 4 largest and one of my blighted trees. I received an email from them within a couple days that told me 4 of my samples were true American Chestnuts but the fifth one was a Japanese-American cross.

    The email didn't say anything further, so I replied asking if the ACF was interested in pollen or catkin or nut samples. In the reply, I was told that the ACF-PA had identified and were monitoring over 200 seven inch caliber, blightless trees in PA.

    I have not heard anything from them since. Apparently, my 5 inch caliper trees are commonplace. Either that, or he didn't like my joke about Darwin putting him out of a job.

    I thought it was an interesting story. I don't know if anyone else has any similar experience? Here are a couple pictures of two of my largest from last winter. I have marked them with yellow and orange tape. For size reference, there is a pole trimmer extended to 10 feet leaning against them.

    WestTrail Center sm.jpg WestTrail Pines sm.jpg WestTrail Center sm.jpg WestTrail Pines sm.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2016
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  2. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    Sorry, I don't know how I got those picture in twice and I sure as heck don't know how to edit it to remove the duplicates.
     
  3. Diamond hunter

    Diamond hunter Member

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    Hey looks great cut some of that competition and let em go.
     
  4. Merle Hawggard

    Merle Hawggard Well-Known Member

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    I'd love to have a chestnut that big. Ever have any chestnuts?
     
  5. shedder

    shedder Active Member

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    Very cool find.

    Small AC is more common than many think but blight is likely to win in time.

    Maybe pack mud on the cankers if you see any.
     
  6. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    I already took out any maples and black gums that were competing but I couldn't get myself to drop a larger oak for a tree that might still end up with the blight. The tallest one (first (and third)) pictures above is already competing with the oaks around it. I figure I might as well let it have its way. I didn't bother doing anything with the 2 trees that are showing blight.
     
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  7. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    I don't know since I only found the trees last winter. I also really don't know how they are doing this year because they are all in areas that I haven't entered since April. If I get near them when I am hunting (archery opens Oct 1) I will look around for nuts for sure.

    My local area had a terrible outbreak of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars last summer. They eventually stripped EVERY leaf from EVERY natural oak and from EVERY apple (64) and EVERY Dunstan Chestnut (12). I assume that they got the American Chestnuts as well. Most of the trees eventually leafed back out, although 4 apples did not. This year, all of those trees are showing stress. A few of my big oaks are dying, I lost a couple more apple trees, and I have few apples and it appears no acorns.

    So, if I don't see any American Chestnuts on the ground this year, I may have an excuse. They certainly seem big enough to be fruiting and are in relatively close clusters so they should be pollinating each other.
     
  8. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    Unfortunately, you are likely correct. I do have hope though, because like I wrote, the only 2 trees that are growing from stumps happen to also be dying of blight even though they are a fraction of the size of many of the others. The 2 trees I posted pics of have no signs of blight. Nor am I told do the 7 inch caliper trees that the ACF-PA is tracking.
    Also, like I mentioned, wouldn't it be great if Darwin got this one right?
     
  9. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Well-Known Member

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    I would check with locals to see when chestnuts drop. I think it is possible that date is sooner than Oct 1st.

    I would get into the woods at a day or two before perceived drop date. I would take something to collect any chestnuts on the ground at that time.

    I would be as normal as possible and just walk in without acting like a hunter.

    Squirrels will clean those chestnuts up as will deer and turkeys. Also, the chestnut will dry out if it lays on the forest ground too long.

    My two cents ...

    Congrats on your find!
     
  10. Sam

    Sam Active Member

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    Great find!
     
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  11. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    Ha. Good advice, but you have some skin in this game, wbpdeer.
    A. Its not your sanctuary I would have to enter
    B. I already promised to send you all the nuts that I might find

    I think I will show some patience this year and assume that I don't have any nuts because of the caterpillars. Plus, I have a couple nice bucks on camera. This isn't such a wild guess on my part because I actually have had access to one of the big trees and it has no sign of nuts right now. It happens to be the tree that has been identified as a Japanese-American cross. Here's a pic of that one (notice the fresh maple stump next to it and the partially cut maple behind, Diamond Hunter) :

    Borzak sm.jpg
     
  12. Goldentriangle

    Goldentriangle Active Member

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    I'm jealous. This makes me wonder if and where we have survivors here in the Midwest. I hear from an old timer that American chestnuts were extremely common in my hometown 40 years ago. I can't say I've ever seen one in person that I know of.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  13. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Lots of difference in PA and KY, so what I'm about to say may not be applicable - but a guy I go to church with is seeing the same thing on his place here. He says his woods have a lot of American Chestnuts that get pretty big but then die back at some point. I'm not sure if his is a big as the ones you have, but I do recall him saying there were some good sized ones. I will try to remember and ask him this weekend.

    Personally, I have never seen one in my woods.
     
  14. wbpdeer

    wbpdeer Well-Known Member

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    Native Hunter - I have never seen one in the woods. I have a friend in East TN that has a single that keeps coming back from a stump. I have 4 seedlings he grew from nuts. They are hybrids fertilized from some nearby Chinese Chestnuts.

    At my age, I am hopeful my son and grandsons will see the ACF get their solutions in place. Letemgrow and others that work hard on the American Chestnut are a passionate bunch.

    An interesting topic.
     
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  15. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Wayne, you may already know this, but there is a big mature AC in Adair County, KY (same county as my farm) that has survived. It is well known by the ACF and others. I've seen TV shows about it where they were collecting pollen from a bucket truck, etc...

    It's a 18 minute drive from my place.

    I think the efforts of the AFC and others will eventually work, but like many good things, it just takes time.

    PS: I sent my friend a text message asking him about the size of the trees he told me about. I will report when I hear something from him.
     
  16. letemgrow

    letemgrow Active Member

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    All these finds show the pure form is and never was a lost cause. Its easy to write them off being the management needed at this time to keep competition at bay while they keep going through the cycle.

    Any chance to know which one of your trees was the hybrid?? Personally i'd cut that sucker out to keep the pure form...but that's just me

    Great looking chestnuts you have there!!!
     
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  17. Native Hunter

    Native Hunter Well-Known Member

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    Well, he returned the text message.

    He had a forester look at them and they weren't chestnuts like he thought. He couldn't remember what the guy said they actually were.

    LOL, sorry for interrupting this good thread........................
     
  18. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    Location:
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    The blight was introduced into NYC in 1905 and swept the country from East to West. I was under the impression that the last of the mature ones around here have been gone for 80 years. It would make sense that if mother nature were going to develop its own resistance to the blight, the fix would sweep from East to West as well.

    I grew up in Wisconsin and lived in Indiana and don't every recall a mention of an American Chestnut there. I've been out here for 20 years and they are not uncommon (there is an incredible number of vacant, wooded acres out here), but everyone knows they die back after just a few years. That's why I was so impressed with the size and health of some of mine. The ACF-PA wasn't as impressed though. That makes me think we might still see a full fledged comeback in my lifetime. With or without the help of man.
     
  19. cagantpr

    cagantpr Active Member

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    I agree with your first sentiment. I kind of write it off to the arrogance of mankind trying to control nature. For the most part, we are just along for the ride. We only think 100 years is significant because it happens to be close to our own lifespans.

    I know which tree is the hybrid and I uploaded a pic of it above (3rd tree (5th picture!)). I thought about cutting it as you suggest, but I decided I didn't need to be in a real big hurry. Its one of my top 3 specimens for one thing. For another, I want to see how well my true American trees are going to fruit before I take the saw to this one. Its a 5 inch caliper tree and cutting it is a one way trip. Hell, I will be dead in 30 years.

    After the ACF-PA identified it as a hybrid I expected them to ask me to cut it as well. I also expected them to suggest I open the canopy around the others. Maybe even cut and burn the 2 that had blight. But they gave no advice. They truly seemed to have very little interest and the tone of the letter suggested they were doing me a favor by identifying them for me. It all leads me back to the title I gave this thread.
     
  20. letemgrow

    letemgrow Active Member

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    They r definitely big enough to fruit given enough sunlight and most likely would have been for some time.

    Ever thought about taking scions off the pure ones to start in an orchard setting? That may be one of my next projects where they r like apple trees and sprout back/fruit faster that way and always have some producing.
     

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