When your goal is something as important as restoring the American chestnut to the eastern United States, you can’t go it alone. The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) knew this, which is why they have a network of amazing chapters, volunteers, scientists, and also, partner organizations. Through the ArbNet community of arboreta we can work collaboratively as part of a broad network with the common goal of encouraging the planting and conservation of trees.
ArbNet became a partner with TACF to help provide arboreta access to trial chestnut seeds which are potentially resistant to the chestnut blight, a fungal disease which eliminated native chestnut trees in America over the past century. By teaming up with TACF, ArbNet is making a substantial impact on the recovery of the American chestnut. We launched a pilot program involving 9 arboreta and are now recruiting more arboreta in order to increase the efforts to resurrect the American chestnut.
While the program is still in its own seedling stage, TACF is excited about the potential to further increase the scope of this partnership to grow chestnuts in different arboreta across the eastern United States. TACF offers three kinds of seeds or 1 year old seedlings: 1) TACF’s Potentially Blight-Resistant American chestnuts, a sixth generation hybrid of Castanea dentata, and, Castanea mollissima. Offspring may have moderate to good blight resistance; 2) Pure American chestnut, native to the eastern United States, 3) Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima which is native to China, typically more “shrubby” in appearance, with strong blight resistance.
The packages offered to arboreta through TACF and ArbNet contain four of each kind of seed, plus signs and informational brochures. Depending on which package an arboretum chooses, they get either one or three signs, and it costs either $280 or $680. In addition, all packages include a one-year organizational membership to TACF. A germplasm agreement is required for any arboretum planting the Potentially Blight-Resistant American chestnuts, and TACF requests that participating arboreta fill out a survey at one, three, five, and ten year intervals.
Because TACF naturally wants to support all arboreta involved, failed seedlings will be replaced. There is also a TACF growers listserv maintained by Penn State University, which supports an open forum where questions can be freely asked and answered by an active community of chestnut growers in the United States.
The chestnut restoration program application process is simple, straightforward, and free, and the application can be found on the ArbNet website (see box below).
The most important factor for being a qualifying arboretum is having a well-drained, somewhat acidic site, similar to good growing conditions for blueberries or azaleas. A soil test can be done with a local university, extension agent, or environmental laboratory. Only institutions east of the Mississippi in the U.S. will be considered. Do we need to provide an explanation for this?
While an institution does not have to be accredited by ArbNet to apply for the chestnut restoration program, we ask that arboreta become accredited during this process through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. The accreditation process is simple and allows TACF to know the capacity of the arboretum that we are working with. Additionally, many of the arboreta participating in the chestnut program are accredited at level I and II. You can find the application here and consider applying alongside your application for the chestnut restoration program.
Currently, ArbNet has over 200 accredited arboreta with many arboreta within the historic range of the American chestnut. These arboreta have the opportunity to join this program and be part of the American chestnut restoration effort. If you are interested in become part of the program fill out our application here and check out TACF.
If you are interested in this program, or you know of one, that would benefit from adding chestnuts, please follow the instructions below to find TACF’s application on ArbNet’s website:
1. Go to www.arbnet.org
2. Click on “Resources”
3. Click on “Tree Collections”
4. Scroll down to “Collaboration Opportunities” and click on “TACF Program Application”
ArbNet TACF application
ArbNet accreditation information
ArbNet accreditation application