CROSSVILLE — In mid-June, I am going to be out in Tennessee looking for snow, and I expect to find some. No, I am not nuts, but I will be looking for nuts. If you are up for something new and interesting, you can get in on this adventure. More on the snow later.
I reported a few weeks ago that some friends and I had found an American Chestnut tree. Although, 60 foot tall American Chestnut trees are extremely rare, I was 90 percent sure that was what we found. To be certain, I followed instructions on the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) website, www.afc.org, and sent samples of a leaf, a bur with nuts inside, and a twig, to TACF headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. I sent the samples on a Tuesday afternoon via U.S. mail. Thursday morning I had several emails from TACF representatives wanting to come and see the tree. At that point, I knew that we were onto something pretty big.
A few days later Joe Schibig, president of the Tennessee chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, and Jack Torkelson, an experienced volunteer, drove over from north of Nashville to measure and record information about our chestnut tree here in Fairfield Glade.
A day or two after that, I was invited to speak at the upcoming annual meeting of the Tennessee chapter of TAFC. I would be an amateur speaking to a group of chestnut experts about our chestnut tree...sounded like fun. So on March 1st, the four of us who found the tree accepted the invitation, and attended the annual chestnut meeting. Actually, I just presented a slideshow about our specific tree; I didn't try to tell the experts anything they already knew.
If you have read about American Chestnut trees, you know that by the 1940's, nearly all American Chestnut trees were killed by a foreign blight, a fungus, that was inadvertently imported on Asian chestnut trees. The blight kills the American trees, but not the roots. So, for the last 80 plus years, sprouts have continued to pop up from old stumps. The sprouts almost always die from the fungus within a few years, long before they get large enough to flower and bear nuts. But, every once in a while, a tree gets big enough to flower before it dies. Prior to the accidental introduction of the blight around 1900, American Chestnut trees grew 100 feet tall and over 6 feet across. The tree we found was 60 feet tall and 10 inches across. It would have been a baby in olden times, but it was a giant among today's American chestnut trees.