Georigia Chapter - American Chestnut Foundation (GA-ACF)

In April 2012 the Georgia Piedmont Land Trust (GPLT) became a participant in the testing and trial program sponsored by The American Chestnut Foundation. The goal of the program is for participants to plant American Chestnut seedlings in an orchard or forest setting.

The goal of the American Chestnut Foundation Project is to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree via scientific research and breeding, and restore the tree to its native forests along the eastern United States. 

Learn More About GA-ACF

About the American Chestnut

The American chestnut is a large tree of the beech family native to eastern North America. Before this native tree succumbed to the infestation of the chestnut blight, a disease caused by an Asian bark fungus, it was one of the most important forest trees throughout eastern North America, and was considered the finest chestnut tree in the world.

This chestnut blight was accidentally introduced into North America on imported Asiatic chestnut trees. It was first noticed on American chestnut trees in what was then the New York Zoological Park, now known as the Bronx Zoo, in the borough of The Bronx, New York City, in 1904, by chief forester Hermann Merkel. Merkel estimated that by 1906 blight had infected 98 percent of the chestnut trees in the borough. While Chinese chestnut trees evolved with the blight and developed a strong resistance, the American chestnut had little resistance. The airborne bark fungus spread 50 miles per year and in a few decades killed up to 4 billion American chestnut trees which represented about 1/4 of the hardwood tree population.

Learn More from the American Chestnut Foundation

GPLT Hybrid American Chestnut Orchards

Board member Dale Higdon, a retired GA Forestry Commission Forester, is the champion, leader and resident expert for the GPLT Hybrid American Chestnut project.

The first GPLT orchard was planted in March 2013. A second GPLT orchard was planted on another GPLT property in February 2018. Control plantings of American chestnuts and Chinese chestnuts were planted along with the new test hybrids. As a participant in the American Chestnut Foundation project GPLT has committed to provide regular reporting and photos documenting the health and progress of the chestnut plantings.

In 2019 Dr. John French, a member of the GA chestnut board, a plant pathologist and soil scientist took soil samples from both GPLT orchard sites. He reported that the root disease, phytophthora, was found in abundance at both sites. He surmised that both sites are hot spots for this disease, primarily due to the high clay content of the soil and both locations were old farm/logging sites. This makes both sites very desirable for testing various hybrid strains for resistance to root disease.

Orchard 1

GPLT planted its first orchard in 2013 consisting of 17 seedlings, both Chinese chestnuts and hybrids. In 2014 34 seedlings were planted and in 2015 17 seedlings were planted. Many of these seedlings have not survived.

Click a picture to see it full size.

Orchard 2

GPLT planted its first orchard in 2018 consisting of 20 seedlings by 2019 only about 1/2 of the seedlings had survived.

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Thank you to Hank Ohme, Suzy Downing, Dale Higdon
& Carol Hassell for all our spectacular pictures.