American Chestnut Castanea dentata (Marshall) BorkhausenS2S3 (State rare)  

Status:

American Chestnut was a mighty co-dominant tree (reaching 100 or more feet in height and 4 feet or more in diameter), in a large swath of the eastern U.S. forest that was, historically, designated the Oak-Chestnut forest region (Braun, 1950). Then, in the early twentieth century, a blight caused by an Asian fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, killed many of the chestnut trees, or, at best, left only the roots alive. The roots are still sending up sprouts, only to have them struck down repeatedly by blight, typically before they are old enough to flower and set fruit. Although attempts to breed blight-resistant trees through crosses and backcrosses with Chinese Chestnut, and other methods, have produced trees that genetically are mostly American Chestnut, the introduction of genetically modified American Chestnuts into the landscape is controversial.

Description:

American Chestnut is now typically a small tree, often surrounded by dead sprouts that have succumbed to the blight. It occasionally reaches maturity and produces fruits, however.

Where to find:

In Maryland, the historical range of American Chestnut was from the Piedmont westward nearly to Garrett County. Root sprouts of chestnut are still seen in forested areas throughout that region.

Relationships:

Host plant for various butterfly species including Banded Hairstreak.

Host plant for various moth species including American Dagger Moth and Banded Tussock Moth (Database of World's Lepidopteran Host Plants).

Before the blight, American Chestnut was an ecological powerhouse. Because it flowered relatively late in the spring, after the early-blooming plants had finished, and produced copious amounts of pollen, it was a pollinator magnet. It even had its own bee, the Chestnut Bee (Andrena rehni) (Sam Droege, pers. comm.). Its nuts were favored by a wide variety of wildlife.

There are 146 records in the project database.

View species at Maryland Plant Atlas

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A young American Chestnut in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (5/2/2016). Photo by Dan Small. (MBP list)

An American Chestnut in Garrett Co., Maryland (6/16/2019). Photo by William Blauvelt. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Garrett Co., Maryland (7/12/2014). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Prince George's Co., Maryland (7/7/2015). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

American Chestnut shoots from a blight- and weather-felled tree in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/29/2014). Photo by Matt Tillett. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Garrett Co., Maryland (6/28/2015). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Garrett Co., Maryland (5/29/2014). Photo by Matt Tillett. (MBP list)

American Chestnut growing in Howard Co., Maryland (7/4/2016). Photo by Robert Ferraro. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Allegany Co., Maryland (5/19/2019). Photo by Josh Emm. (MBP list)

A young American Chestnut found growing in Blackbird State Forest, Delaware (6/19/2011). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

American Chestnut growing in Baltimore Co., Maryland (11/23/2017). Photo by Mark Eanes. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (8/21/2012). Microscopic view of wood grain from the tree. Photo by Gary Carver with permission. Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

American Chestnut with fruit in Garrett Co., Maryland (8/23/2013). Photo by Boyer and McDowell. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Baltimore Co., Maryland (5/18/2014). Photo by Dwight Johnson. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (8/21/2012). Determination verified by Gary Carver, American Chestnut Foundation. Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Bill Harms standing next to a dead American Chestnut in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (8/21/2012). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Montgomery Co., Maryland (10/20/2016). Photo by Bill Hill. (MBP list)

American Chestnut in Montgomery Co., Maryland (10/23/2016). Photo by Jane Hill. (MBP list)


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