To Receive Your Whispers
Givers of life to these lungs
May I open my ears and surrender
What can you tell me
ow can I tend you
How can I tend to the ones
Who pour life through these lungs…
"We, for every one of us you've uprooted
You can soothe it by planting another
Of the same as the kind you've uprooted
Every ending a beginning if you choose it…
You can soothe it… if you choose it…"
Games, Lesson Plans and
Educational Resources for Kids
Bringing Back the American Chestnut Tree
The American Chestnut Tree (Castanea Dentata) is native to the North American forest ecosystem and is on the brink of extinction. In the first half of the 20th century, 1 out of 4 trees across the 180 million acre range of eastern forests were killed by an accidentally introduced pathogen: the Chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica). The loss to date of the American Chestnut is cited as one of the worst ecological disasters in the United States. Although chestnut trees still exist in our forests today, they rarely have an opportunity to reproduce and mostly exist as understory sprouts. At one time, the American Chestnut ranked as the most important wildlife plant in the eastern United States. Bountiful populations of squirrels, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear, raccoon, and grouse depended on chestnuts as a major food source. Several unique insect species that relied upon chestnut trees as their principal food source became extinct.
About Our Work
In 2022, we are planting more American Chestnut trees and other medicinal and food producing trees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We are also conducting regular inspections, providing maintenance, and collecting metrics on the trees we planted to date, in order to strengthen their health and survival rate, and discover new methods to address the blight in the American Chestnut Tree. We welcome students and volunteers to participate in our tree planting and care events. We also provide educational presentations and lesson plans to students and families during our planting events. For more detail on Upcoming Planting Events and Tree Inspection Schedules, Click Here (Will be published in February).
2018 - 2021
During 2018-2021, we planted 202 American Chestnut trees on four conservation sites located at the Ruhe Farm in Emmaus, PA, Columcille Megalith Park in Bangor, PA, The Lee and Virginia Graver Arboretum of Muhlenberg College, in Bath, PA, and South Branch Preserve in Mt. Olive, NJ. The sites have been selected based on characteristics representative of the American Chestnut Tree's original habitat and other species that share similar site preferences. On some of the sites, we planted native companion plants to promote the trees’ optimal health and growth, and see how the trees' performance will compare to the sites with no companion plants. We track and compare health and growth of the trees, the impact of the companion plants and other biological factors such as the tree genetics, sun/shade on site, juglone presence. During planting events, we offer educational workshops for children and families and encourage them to participate continuously as citizen scientists by recording and sharing their findings throughout the tree planting and growing phases.
In 2020, we started colonizing the seedlings' root systems with 4 species of endomycorrhizal fungi and 7 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi. There are scientific studies showing that interactions between ectomycorrhizal fungi and American Chestnut root systems create a positive impact on curtailing the spread of the chestnut blight.
Our current findings collected over the last four years already demonstrate trends that are helpful to gain better understanding of how to reduce the American Chestnut Tree’s mortality, identify the trees that exhibit stronger resistance, and contribute effectively to the trees’ performance in the future. Among the findings are (a) out of 202 trees planted to date, 35.5% exhibit signs of blight; (b) blight does not seem to discriminate among the four genetic sources that we planted; (c) hybrid C. dentata x molissima seedlings are affected by blight as much as the pure American seedlings; (d) one tree with blight did not survive. the remaining trees with blight are surviving or recovered; (e) trees in partly shaded spots have a higher mortality (27.6%) while trees planted in sunny spots have a 16.4% mortality; and (f) blight does not affect growth unless it kills the main stem.