|The American Chestnut. Whatever happened to the American tradition of, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."????|
The Asian chestnut trees have grown for millenniums with chestnut bark fungus, resulting in strong resistance. American trees, however, were never exposed to this fungus and therefore could not easily survive infection. Beginning in 1904 the first american tree infected with the bark fungus was found in the Bronx Zoo. The disease had been accidentally transported to the United Stated from Asia on an imported Chinese Chestnut tree. After the initial infection in the Bronx, the disease spread rapidly through air-born fungal spores. American Chestnut trees were killed by the billions. The disease quickly became known as chestnut blight, and by the early 1940's had made the american chestnut tree exceedingly rare. During this 40 or so year span the chestnut tree also was aggressively logged in forest areas and cut down in residential areas. This aggressive removal of trees was done simply because it was thought they were all going to die anyway. As a result, the blight made this once abundant tree has today been wiped out from the landscape and with it, the tradition of roasting chestnuts at Christmas time.
|Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...|
Check out the American Chestnut Foundation for more information on efforts to restore this species:
Fifty or so years ago we may have thought that the American Chestnut was extinct, or at least doomed to extinction. Today however, there is great hope for the tree. While still possible, it is unlikely that the tree will not go extinct. We can currently say it really can't get much worse for this species and recovery is a very viable option. Only time will tell, and as with most trees it will take a long time to grow these trees to see if they are able to grow and resist the blight. Our efforts as humans often result in environmental destruction as we see with the american chestnut. But the american chestnut also shows that hopefully, our careful efforts can also restore and benefit the natural world. And there is great hope that song words, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" can once again be experienced by Americans. Merry Christmas!