Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More American Chestnut

I'm on the mailing list of the Keystone Trails Association, a sister organization here in PA to my trail maintenance club, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC).

KTA puts out a really decent newsletter, and I was fascinated to read an article by Richard Gardner focused on the American Chestnut.  In July I did a post I called The Return of American Chestnut to the Forest...which was not exactly what the title might lead you to believe.  Here's the link.

Anyway, back to the Gardner article in the KTA newsletter.  Here's an excerpt; you should go read the rest.

As an ecologist, I’m accustomed to testing paradigms that have become science doctrine to determine whether they’re true. This spring and summer, I surveyed the American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) along the Appalachian Trail (AT) and other parts of Blue Mountain in central Pennsylvania to see whether there was any truth to the generally believed story of the American chestnut being extinct (or almost so) from the chestnut blight. I decided to do this survey based on a few casual observations, gut instinct, and intuition. As an invasive plant ecologist, I dispel myths in my field by walking and following my instincts and intuition. So naturally I decided to walk, look, and photograph the AT and related trails in central Pennsylvania using a camera with a GPS. I chose the stretch of AT from the Rausch Gap Shelter to Lehigh Gap, as well as related trails from Pennsylvania Route 501 to Hawk Mountain Road. Instead of finding a tree going extinct, I found the American chestnut thriving.

Again, go read the whole article, here, it's definitely worth doing so.  The largest wild American Chestnut I've encountered is near the Cunningham Falls and the Catoctin Trail in nearby Maryland.  If I recall correctly it was nearly a foot in diameter and was bearing nuts.  I can clearly picture the tree in my mind's eye, but finding it again might be quite a different matter.

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