Restoration of a Forest Giant
West Virginia is in the center of the former range of the American chestnut, and it was noted to occur across the state making up from 4 to 18 percent of the forest depending on ecological setting. Efforts to create blight resistant chestnut started not long after the disease effects were felt. The latest hybrid is approximately 94 percent American and is the third generation of the third backcross; it is predicted to have blight resistance similar to the Chinese chestnut and the shape of the American chestnut. In 2011, the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Monongahela National Forest, and The American Chestnut Foundation began to test the hybrid chestnut seedlings on the national forest. Mortality after four growing seasons totaled 12 percent on one site and 41 percent on another. The average height of live stems differed by seedling type with pure American and third generation hybrids the tallest. Family differences in height, form, dieback, and canker occurrence are becoming apparent. As a side effort, the subject in a photo previously reported to be of a large American chestnut in the pre-blight forest was found to be of a redwood tree in California.
Forest Service Partners