rare Chestnuts / fungal blight

Asked December 11, 2015, 1:07 AM EST

Is the fungus that caused the decline of the true American Chestnut tree still present, or did the loss of the Chestnut trees eliminate the fungus as well? I'd like to plant some of these trees - but not if the fungus will immediately decimate them. The landscape arboretum has some of these trees, so maybe it would be OK? Is there any way they would be willing to provide some shoots/seeds to get started? Thank You! John Bayer Ham Lake, MN

Anoka County Minnesota chestnut

1 Response

Hi John,
Even in the best of times (before the blight) the American Chestnut was at the limits of its natural range here in Minnesota. Clearly they can grow here as you've seen at the Arboretum, but they were not common. Chestnuts must be cross-pollinated in order to bear fruit. This means that you have to have a male and a female tree. The larger the stand of trees, the better the success in pollination - another reason that the trees are uncommon these days.

Here is a little information from the University:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/chestnuts-horse-chestnuts-and-ohio-buck...

In the meantime, lots of work has gone into creating strains of Chestnuts that are resistant to the blight. The foremost among these folks is a Minnesota breeder who has created the American Chestnut foundation:
http://www.acf.org/index.php

Interestingly, the last remaining stand of wild chestnuts is in Wisconsin, near
LaCrosse:
http://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/html/stories/2002/aug02/chest.htm

You should be able to find sources for seedlings in some of these links. Just be careful that the seeds, or seedlings that you buy have been bred, and started in zones 4 or less. Southern stock will not be winter-hardy in our area.

Good luck, and thanks for your question!