Can the American chestnut tree eventually recover from the devastating blight that has plagued it for decades? We could find out from a planting next weekend at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky, where staff will plant 20 potentially blight-resistant American chestnut trees at the national park's picnic area.
This free event is open to the public and will begin at 10 a.m. The park's picnic pavilion will be closed from public use from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day due to this special event.
The blight-resistant trees, known as Restoration Chestnuts 1.0, are the products of The American Chestnut Foundation's national breeding program that bred native American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts. Progeny from the breeding is then selected after several years for individual blight resistance and American chestnut characteristics. At one time, the American chestnut was the dominant tree in forests from Maine through Georgia and west to the Ohio Valley. But billions of trees were destroyed as the result of a blight that was introduced into the United States in the early 1900s and TACF is hoping to bring the tree back to its former glory.
"Families in rural America, including the Lincoln family, once depended heavily upon the American chestnut for both food and shelter. The trees grew straight and tall and were rot-resistant, making the wood desirable for construction. The small nuts were sweet and fed entire families, as well as livestock and many species of wildlife," said Park Superintendent Bill Justice.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer for the event and plant trees is welcome to attend. Please let the park know of your intention to volunteer that day by calling the park's visitor center at 270-358-3137.
This project is a joint venture made possible by the Kentucky Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation and the National Park Service.