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Anna's mystery seeds last week were from an American chestnut, Castanea dentata.

american-chestnut-anna-2(Photograph by Anna at A Life Inspired by Nature.)

Anna found the American chestnut seeds on the ground at the Goodwin State Forest in Connecticut. Aren't those burs that surround the seeds fascinating?

chestnut-trees-anna copy(Photograph by Anna at A Life Inspired by Nature.)

The story of the American chestnut is a sad one. The majestic trees were once common throughout Eastern North America, but they virtually disappeared due to the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica. The trees Anna found are part of ongoing research by Dr. Sandra L. Anagnostakis at the Connecticut Agricultural Research Station, who is conducting investigations into resistant varieties and the potential use of a biological control agent to control the fungus.

Have you ever seen a living American chestnut tree?

american-chestnut-treeI have never seen one in flower, like this public domain image by Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA-NRCS-NPDT.

The long, pale yellow fuzzy parts are the male catkins.

american-chestnut-flowers-male-catkinThis is what the male catkins (flowers) look like up close (photograph by Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA-NRCS-NPDT)

chestnut-female-flowerFemale flowers are much less conspicuous. Although male flowers and female flowers are found on the same tree, the American chestnut does not self pollinate. Successful pollination requires two trees to be in near proximity. (Photograph by Doug Goldman, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA-NRCS-NPDT).

Wouldn't it be grand if the American chestnut tree could once again be part of the landscape in North America?

A great big thank you to Anna for suggesting the topic and sharing her photographs. Congratulations for finding these special trees!

Our mystery seeds from last week were indeed chestnuts, Castanea sp.

mystery-seeds-186-2

These chestnuts were purchased at the grocery store, so they are most likely what are called sweet, Spanish or European chestnut, Castanea satvia.

Castanea_sativa

(Illustration from the public domain at Wikimedia - Castanea satvia is a newer name )

The story of the American chestnut, Castanea dentata, is of course a sad one. The majestic trees were once a common sight throughout Eastern North America, but they virtually disappeared due to the chestnut blight.

The good news is that scientists are making some excellent progress developing chestnut blight resistant trees. I'm most familiar with what is going on at my Alma Mater, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's Research and Restoration project.

In this TED video, ESF's Dr. William A. Powell explains a little of the history and what is being done to try to bring back the American Chestnut, If you are interested in trees, it is well worth the 15 minutes viewing time.

Check the comments on YuTube if you are interested in what others think of this program.

For more information, you also might check the American Chestnut Foundation.

Have you ever seen an American chestnut growing?