Update: Orchard at Penn State

May 9th brought an unusual day of snow squals and temperatures in the upper 20’s damaging tender buds and causing confusion in the plant world. While the chestnuts in the arboretum orchards suffered some freeze damage the trees have recovered as of late June. The more mature trees have male catkins present and the female flowers are visible. A few more weeks and chestnut pollen will be on the breeze.

In years past, this time of year is a flurry of activity, planting seedlings, mowing to try and stay ahead of the grass, inoculating trees, and closely watching flower development in preparation for pollination work. We are very busy this year as well. Over 700 young chestnut trees have been inoculated in the Arboretum orchards at Penn State and 2,400 more have been inoculated using the small stem assay (SSA) method in the shadehouse.

The oldest SSAs are 3 weeks old and the effects can be seen as some of the more susceptible seedlings have died from the inoculation. Over the summer up to 50% of the inoculated B3F2 seedlings should succumb to the inoculations. The remainder B3F2s will be planted in the arboretum in fall of 2020 and spring 2021.

More grafts have been made, and a lot has been learned on what works, what doesn’t, and where we can improve. Dr. Hill Craddock from University of Tennessee, Chattanooga gave a grafting tutorial to some TACF staff which should improve the success moving forward. In preparation for next grafting season hundreds of chestnut seedlings have been planted for use as root stock. The successful grafts will be kept in the shadehouse on campus this year before being planted in a portion of the chestnut orchards in the Arboretum @ Penn State.

On the trail for American chestnuts in Pennsylvania!

Report a tree

TACF is on the hunt for new sources of wild American chestnut. If you want to help us map these living trees for our restoration work please check out our Report a Tree page.

If you would like to invite our representative to talk about this initiative please email Jean Najjar at mail@patacf.org

Reports of historical sites are welcome too!

Recently, we received an email with photos and a story about American chestnut snag at Cook Forest State Park. Many thanks to Jacqueline Goslin for sharing these images and her interest in the American chestnut.

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Goslin

The plaque reads: This snag or dead tree, has been standing since it was killed by the chestnut blight that moved through Pennsylvania, by the early 1920’s. The wood of this tree was very rot resistant and prized in the early lumber industry. It was used to build just about anything from tool handles to houses. The Civilian Conservation Corps CCC, salvaged some of these dead chestnut trees to build many of the park’s cabins, shelters, and the Log Cabin Inn Environmental Learning Classroom from 1933-1937.

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Goslin

Wildlife, such as turkey, bear, deer, and squirrels depended on this tree for food. It was a very fast-growing tree. Many trees that were felled in the logging era (1820-1920) averaged six feet in diameter. The largest chestnut tree ever recorded before felling was 54 feet in circumference, which makes it about 18 feet across.

Learn more about the history of Cook Forest State Park.