American Chestnut Sapling, Tanger Arboretum, Lancaster, PA

In Albums: trees plants

A young American chestnut sapling, showing large, long, pointed, serrated leaves, staked, growing in grass

May 21st, 2007, by Alex Zorach

This photo shows an American Chestnut sapling, planted in the Tanger Arboretum, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This arboretum is on the grounds of the Lancaster County Historical Society, and the tree can be found on the left while entering the southernmost driveway on President Avenue. Technically, this tree is actually a hybrid, as it contains some genetic material from a Chinese chestnut.

The American chestnut was wiped out by a blight caused by a fungus, introduced when the non-native Chinese chestnut, a host species to the fungus, that is unharmed by it, was introduced to North America. An organization, the American Chestnut Foundation, has undertaken the daunting task of selective breeding, hybridizing American chestnuts (taking local stock whenever possible) with Chinese chestnuts, then back-crossing with American chestnuts, and testing and eliminating not only trees that are not disease resistant, but trees that have any offspring that are not resistant. The result of this slow process is the development of new trees whose offspring will have full resistance to the fungus, but which consist of mostly American genetic material.

This project is still under development and these resistant trees are not being widely planted, nor are they widely available on the market. However, a few trees have been planted in select locations, such as this one in the Tanger Arboretum.