Project to revive American Chestnut trees in Aroostook County

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 6:52 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - American Chestnut trees once flourished in the Northeast but has now nearly vanished, but one grower is working to bring them back.

There aren’t chestnuts roasting on an open fire, rather growing in a local greenhouse. Randy Martin, Director of the Central Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, says there was once an abundance of chestnut trees, but not anymore.

“Back in the 1900′s there were 4 billion chestnut trees up and down the eastern seaboard down as far as Alabama. Some gentleman brought some seedlings from China of chestnut. They were carrying blight, and in just a few years it wiped out 4 billion chestnut trees.”

Through a partnership with the Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, Martin and a local forester are working to restore native American Chestnut trees to the State’s Forest ecosystem.

“These first four are a cross between our American Chestnut and a Chinese Chestnut which is resistant to the blight so they’re a hybrid. We have four of those and then we have 31 of the American chestnuts. We’re going to get a bunch more seed next year. We’re going to set out two trials probably not until Spring of ’23 because I want to get these good sized.”

Martin adds there are things you can do to keep these trees and others, alive and well.

“Most of the invasive forest pests and diseases spread in firewood. People not knowing what they’re doing will drive up from Costal Maine with firewood from their property. They may have emerald ash borer, or they might have something in the wood and boom it’s here. So not transporting firewood, buying firewood where you go camping.”

While wildlife feed on beech nuts here in the county, Martin says this project will provide them with an alternative food source.

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