On May 22nd, five intrepid volunteers met at the New Jersey Dept of Forestry’s tree nursery in Jackson, New Jersey, to water American Chestnut trees, pull a few weeds, and generally nerd out about chestnuts. Jesse Otto took the record for furthest-distance traveled (112 miles from Reading, PA) — that’s some love right there, driving almost two hours each way to water some baby trees.
We walked back and forth across and down the rows, toting buckets of water. Each tree got watered about 4-5 times — the NJ Dept of Forestry filled three huge drums with water for us and left them in the orchard, so we filled our buckets until the water was gone.
We were all so busy staring at the base of the trees where we were watering and weeding that we almost didn’t notice that many of the big trees in the orchard (maybe 5 or 6) had baby catkins already showing! Such a hopeful sign, even though many of the larger trees were already suffering from blight. Kieu and Mike Manes, and Tony Rosati introduced me, a new member to the difference between pure American leaves and those from hybrid trees, and I got to experience firsthand the sharp needles on an empty burr.
We finished up just as the sun got hot. It was really encouraging to see the young catkins developing — hopefully, the orchard will produce nuts this fall.
By Ruth Chin _Ewing NJ