Where can I get some American Chestnut seeds or seedlings?
November 13, 2012 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in growing blight resistant American Chestnut Trees in Northern New Jersey. Where can I find seeds or seedlings?

I realize the long time periods involved in the breeding programs for establishing the chestnuts lost by blight and understand the risk of loosing trees that might not be actually resistant many years down the line. With that in mind I love the idea of helping the recovery effort in any small way. I have donated in the past to The American Chestnut Foundation but they are not offering seeds at this time. With the time to maturity very long, I would like to get started and see how it goes, even if it is a learning experience.
posted by JayNolan to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I must be missing something, because it seems like you can get seeds from them if you become a member:

By purchasing an ANNUAL SPONSOR membership to TACF®, you are eligible to receive our latest line of potentially blight-resistant seed stock from our Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. This is the first time we are able to offer the opportunity to test our latest line of potentially blight-resistant seeds to our members. These seeds represent 29 years of our best science.

These chestnuts are for testing and evaluation only. There is no guarantee they will have adequate resistance to the chestnut blight, but by planting these seeds you become part of our science team by helping us evaluate these latest trees. Your feedback on seedling performance will be critical in helping TACF researchers improve resistance.

For 2013, the cut-off date for ordering chestnuts is February 1, 2013.
Orders received after February 1, 2013 will be processed in 2014.

posted by oneirodynia at 10:17 AM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: It just isn't in my budget to do the Annual Sponsor. It is $300 and gets four seeds.
posted by JayNolan at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2012

Have you checked with New Jersey Cooperative Extension? Somebody there might be able to help you. Or maybe the New Jersey Forestry Service.
posted by mareli at 10:34 AM on November 13, 2012

And here's a nursery in Georgia that sells them.
posted by mareli at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2012

Arborday foundation sent me some hazelnut seedlings for a modest donation. They have Oak Chestnut and Chinese - is the Oak the same thing?
posted by tilde at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2012

From what I understand, Dunstan chestnut trees are blight resistant. They are a cross of Chinese and American chestnuts. $25 from the Chetnut Hill Nursery.
posted by plinth at 11:10 AM on November 13, 2012

And here's a nursery in Georgia that sells them.

Except that their copy states that "The remaining groves of American Chestnuts had a genetic immunity to the disease that ravaged native trees last century" which is not true. There are American chestnuts that are resistant, but that is not the same thing as immune.
Here's what Virginia Tech/ the ACCF says about the seedlings from their resistant parents:
ACCF nuts are harvested in a Virginia Tech planting which contains original sources of blight resistance and all-American intercrosses. Blight resistance of the parent trees is inherited by only some of their offspring. When ACCF stock is planted within the area infested by blight, natural selection will reveal the resistant individuals. Trees which have inherited some blight resistance and are at least 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height (dbh) before they are infected by the blight fungus, make swollen slow-growing cankers which are confined to the outer bark and may not kill the tree; those which have no blight resistance, make rapid-growing, sunken cankers capable of killing the tree within one growing season when the canker girdles the stem. Stump sprouts at the base of the chestnuts killed by blight can be used as grafting stock for scions collected from blight-resistant American chestnuts, providing a strong root system has been established. To complete the integrated management protocol for American chestnut revival, resistant American chestnuts should be reported to the ACCF.

It looks like the ACCF will ship their seed stock if you have an appropriate site, but they are not guaranteed to be resistant.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:34 AM on November 13, 2012

Right now, the only game in town is the American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). That's different than ACCF. (This is an Apple / Microsoft kind of schism and you can sign up for either approach once you get up to speed enough to make a judgment.)

I used to be the VP of Development for TACF. TACF trees/seedings are backcross bred hybrids of pure American trees (wild gathered pollen) and breeding stock which was from existing American / Chinese hybrids with good American form. (American trees got huge. Chinese, European, and Japanese trees are a lot smaller and differ mophologically in too many traits to quickly list or understand.)

The backcross method was aiming primarily to move the major trait of blight resistance to a tree with American form. It took a while. At this stage, there are a few seed orchards. Unless you steal or are surreptitiously 'given' seed, it's unlikely you'll get anything with any serious level of blight resistance. TACF trees that produced the seeds that produced the seed orchards were challenged with several strains of blight fungus, so they come from stock that should have measurable resistance. Whether that translates into a planting success at your farm is a crap shoot. You could have a relatively blight free site. You could have hypovirulent blight fungus present. You could get some really resistant trees.

ACCF stuff, not so much. They are purists and are aiming at 100% American trees, but the level of resistance is magnitudes less, or was when I was in TACF.

Three hundred bux is a hit. It's also the best bet. If you just want to plant chestnuts, any number of Oriental hybrids are out there and you can get American seed fairly easily. Oriental trees grow well in non-forest situations. In the deep woods, they die from competition for light. Pure Americans will usually eventually die, though I have seen them in the 50-year old range, blight free in isolation. These are called 'escapes'. Blight is fairly endemic and is present on a number of host species.

TACF is a good organization, and the money will support further hybrid refinement. They are the best of breed team working the problem right now. If you can swing it, it's a worthy cause, a good source, and a fascinating project.
posted by FauxScot at 12:27 PM on November 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Here's a great place to get seed (not blight resistant.) Dr. Miller is a long time TACF member and rock star and he has a big chestnut operation in Carrolton, OH. Sells all kinds of stuff for eating and planting.

posted by FauxScot at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2012

Oikos tree crops has a few hybrid American chestnuts
posted by BinGregory at 6:30 PM on November 13, 2012

Hi. I work for The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF).


I'm Sara.

It is difficult to get "pure", blight-susceptible American chestnuts. TACF used to sell them, but we have been having trouble finding a good nursery with which to partner to provide this service again.

Until then, most of our local Chapters will give "pure" American chestnut seeds/seedlings to regular members ($40/year), or sell them to non-members.

Depending on where you are located, I can give you the skinny and/or put you in touch w/ the right people.

There are other folks who say they have American chestnuts for sell, but, other than what ACCF has (which is almost always "pure" C. dentata), I can't really vouch for the "purity" of their material.

posted by phyrn at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

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