A century ago, the American Chestnut was among the most dominant species comprising the great eastern forests and Appalachian range of the United States. Often referred to as the “perfect tree, ” it had an enormous impact on the wildlife, people and pollinators of the region and ecosystem. Now, the once mighty Chestnut is virtually gone from the landscape.
The introduction of a fungal blight laid waste to the tree, which did not adapt to coexist with the pathogen. Since its functional extinction, experts have been working to restore this iconic species. Efforts are currently underway to breed resistance to the blight from other chestnut species into our native American Chestnut, so that future trees have all the natural characteristics with an immunity built in. This is a long road, but researchers are getting closer after several generations of back breeding.