Monday, January 4, 2016

Another Hopeful Note on the American Chestnut

In catching up on my reading of the always delightful Mike the Mad Biologist blog (you REALLY should hop over there, it's a treasure!), I encountered another piece of good news concerning the American Chestnut.

Mike links to this NPR story:

Scientists are excited about the discovery of an American chestnut tree in the woods of western Maine, a record-breaking tree that's giving them hope for the future.
Growing straight and tall, chestnut trees were once prized for timber. Vendors still roast and sell European chestnuts on the streets of Manhattan, fragrant aroma and all. But the American chestnut that once dominated the Eastern woodlands, from Maine to Georgia, was virtually wiped out by a blight that was accidentally introduced from Asia.
That's why on a recent, rainy December day, a gaggle of reporters, photographers and members of the American Chestnut Foundation trudged into the woods of Lovell, Maine, to confirm some crucial measurements of a chestnut tree growing in the wild.
As girth goes, this chestnut tree is not impressive: At 16.1 inches, it's on the skinny side. Except for its long, slender leaves, and spiny, urchin-like burs, it wouldn't stand out as distinctive in a forest lineup, especially this time of year, when both the leaves and the burs are littering the ground.
But Brian Roth, a forest scientist with the University of Maine, says when it comes to height, this American chestnut reigns supreme.
"We think it's around 100 years old," Roth says. "It's over 100 feet tall, which makes it the tallest tree that we know of in North America."
That's 115 feet tall, to be precise. But beyond its exceptional height, this chestnut is interesting to Roth and members of the American Chestnut Foundation because of its ability to survive. Surrounded by a cluster of equally tall pine trees, it was discovered in July from the air, distinguished by the large white flowers in its crown.

This is great news!  See my previous American Chestnut post, a nostalgic tale of my father-in-law, an old barn, and a board returning to the forest, here.

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