The American Chestnut tree is an endangered species of chestnut tree that was once prevalent in the North Eastern region of the United States, stretching from Maine all the way to Georgia. Nicknamed things such as the “Redwoods of the East,” American Chestnut trees can grow to be taller than fifty feet and many feet wide. They produce chestnuts, representative of American forestry in many ways. They are truly magnificent trees.
Yet a chestnut blight, introduced to the United States in 1904, has been destroying American Chestnut populations in droves. The airborne fungus infects these chestnut trees of all sizes. Forming large cankers, the blight cuts off vital nutrients to the tree, ultimately killing it. The number of surviving American Chestnut trees has decreased drastically since the blight’s arrival in the U.S. However, all hope for the trees is not lost. Recent research at SUNY ESF has made advances into genetically engineering blight-resistant American Chestnut trees by using enzymes found in many of the foods we eat- such as strawberries. Their research has been successful, and the first blight-resistant trees are being tested in the field as we speak. Before we know it, we may have more American Chestnut trees around us.