A report from Dylan Longale, our 2022 Outreach and Data Management Intern
Over the month of July, I traveled 810 miles divided into two trips — visiting seven orchards and meeting 10 fellow chestnut enthusiasts. I spent most of my time visiting plantings near York, Pennsylvania on my first trip, before heading up to Milford, Pennsylvania.
In Gettysburg, I visited an orchard next to the Sachs Covered Bridge. This orchard was an F2 orchard that was planted in 2014 and originally had 500 trees. Upon my visit, I found there were only about 200 trees remaining. A few trees were doing well although this site had a problem with invasives and some plant hopper damage. Invasives such as oriental bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, and white mulberry were growing around the trees resulting in some girdling due to the vines or just outcompeting the chestnuts. Planthoppers were also prevalent as they will feed on the sap from the leaves of the chestnuts resulting in a distorted leaf shape.
Next, I visited Jay Brenneman, Don Lehigh, Hasmukh Amin, and Lynn Doll at Codorus State Park. There are multiple orchards within the park including some F1, F2, and backcross orchards. We worked hard to cut and remove some of the dead trees in the orchards and cut back some of the vines and invasives growing on some of the trees. The orchards there were originally started by Dave Armstrong but eventually got overgrown. Jay worked to reclaim some of the trees and add to the orchards over the years. Now the orchards are in great shape due to the hard work of the members and volunteers there. I had a great time helping out.
My second trip included many stops at orchards all over the Eastern half of the state. I started out traveling to Dornsife, Pennsylvania to meet Chuck White from the Game Commission. They have an F2 orchard that has about 500 trees. The trees looked great and a few of them were just getting mature enough to produce burrs which Chuck said they have not had a lot of in the past. They did some replanting last year but some of the new seedlings were having trouble getting established. I saw a lot of Japanese beetles on the trees, but they did not seem to be causing too much damage. Chuck and the Game Commission do a great job maintaining this site and look forward to collecting some of this year’s nuts to out-plant into the forest.
Further down interstate 80, I met Wayne Martin at his family’s land in New Jersey. Wayne and his son Carl worked to establish a forest planting of F2 trees on an area of their land that was cleared by a storm years ago. The trees competed with other species regenerating on the site such as tulip poplar and sweet birch. This resulted in some of the trees being suppressed or dying off due to the lack of sunlight but also led to some nice tall chestnuts that were growing to be quite dominant trees.
Next, I went up to Milford experimental forest to meet Leila Pinchot and her dad Peter. This orchard had two types of B3F3 backcross plantings. One was a planting following a timber harvest in which the trees were growing against tons of new regeneration such as aspen and sweet birch. The second was forest planting under a younger-growth birch forest. We had a great time spending the day fighting through brush collecting measurements and updating survival data. The trees in the more recently harvested site seemed to be doing very well and competing against the other regenerating species. The trees planted in the younger growth birch were more suppressed and smaller likely due to the limited sunlight they were receiving. They plan on hopefully cutting out some of the more dominant birches at this site in hopes of creating space for the chestnut saplings to grow.
My last stop was at an orchard established on Heritage Conservancy land out around Allentown. Here I met Tyler who works for the Heritage Conservancy, and we worked to update survival data for the trees left in the orchard. There were originally about 110 trees in this orchard that were planted in 2002 that were F1 and wild American trees. Since then, many have died, but last year they planted a few of the newer backcross trees and some of them seem to be doing well. There were also a few regenerating seedlings I found in this orchard which is always an exciting find!