Practically extinct American chestnut – a imaginative and prescient from America’s previous – at UW Arboretum

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July 15, 2022

I used to be lagging behind, catching up with a buddy as my fellow bloggers hotfooted it after our fast-talking and even faster-walking tour information at UW Arboretum, a cease on the Madison Garden Bloggers Fling. Time was quick, and the information was beelining to noteworthy timber. Throughout one pause he glanced at his watch after which turned rapidly, telling us he had one thing particular to indicate us, a tree he’d seen blooming earlier that day.

It was an American chestnut. Castanea dentata. My eyes lifted to it in amazement as we gathered round. The American chestnut, once the king of the great Eastern forests, is now virtually extinct, worn out by blight 100 years in the past. The poetic and heartbreaking description of the chestnut’s heyday and decline within the great novel The Overstory had pierced my coronary heart after I learn it. And now right here I used to be, gazing at a survivor.

Why had the blight not killed this tree? (Not but, one may add.)


This tree grows removed from the American chestnut’s unique vary, the place blight spores linger and finally infect saplings that also rise from the stumps of outdated, stricken timber. Birds and pollinators can carry blight spores lengthy distances too. However up to now this lonely chestnut has remained secure. It lacks the grand stature of a mature chestnut, but it surely’s a good-sized tree. I hope it continues to evade the blight.

Our information instructed us that the male catkins, which dangle among the many toothy leaves like ivory-yellow tassels, gentle up a chestnut from above — like floral fireworks. Think about an entire forest of those pale blossoms swaying within the breeze. It’s a imaginative and prescient that not exists besides in tales about America’s previous.

I seen prickly burrs on the bottom underneath the cover and picked one up. It poked my unwary fingers. That is the remnant of a feminine flower, which seems on the identical tree because the male catkins. If pollination happens — which requires cross-pollination with one other chestnut tree — two or three nuts form inside the female flower’s protective burr. Sharp spines safeguard the nuts till they ripen, at which period the burrs cut up open and fall from the tree, revealing the edible bounty inside.

I can’t recall if our information instructed us whether or not this tree ever produces nuts — if there may be one other lonely American chestnut close to sufficient for pollinators to search out each of them. However this one, a minimum of, flowers every June, hoping.

Possibly someplace out there may be one other American chestnut, one far sufficient from the blight zone, or immune to it…

…on the lookout for love too.

Up subsequent: Conifers, a waterlily pond, and a sunny crevice backyard at Allen Centennial Backyard. For a glance again at Linda Grosz’s prairie backyard for wildlife, click on right here.

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