Awhile back we were having a debate at my parent’s house about whether the chestnut trees on the property were in fact the American Chestnut that was virtually wiped out by 1940 or the blight resistant Chinese Chestnut that remains today. Trying to identify the tree proved inconclusive so it was finally decided we should leave it to the experts at the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF). We collected samples of the leaves and pods and packaged them up at the Post Office to be sent on their way to be tested. With the samples on their journey we only had to sit back and wait for the results to come in. Still my father was determined that, in fact, the chestnuts in question were the rare American Chestnuts and that the house was built from said trees. The debate was still active but we needed to only wait for the testing to confirm what the trees were.
The results finally came back in the form of a spreadsheet and looked at two different aspects of the samples we sent, Macroscopic and Microscopic traits. Macroscopic is simply naked eye observations and traits which included leaf thickness, shape and shininess. It also included bud shape, color, hairiness whether there were stipules, what the stem size was and twig color and hairiness. The microscopic traits for underside the leaf were simple hairs on veins, simple hairs on interveinal areas, presence and abundance of stellate hairs and shape and abundance of trichomes. If all of these traits that I am talking about are confusing then you will understand why it was so difficult for us to identify whether the tree was Chinese or American Chestnut. Sending the samples away for testing by the experts proved to be key to identifying the proper species.
As we scanned the results sheet we were finally guaranteed what species the chestnut was. Each test performed proved that it was the blight resistant Chinese and not the rare American Chestnut that it was believed to be. Now what awaits for the debate to conclude is whether or not the house was constructed from American Chestnut wood or Chinese.
Thank you very much for taking the time to submit the leaf sample you did. It was well-preserved and made for easy identification.
From investigating about 15 traits, I am quite certain that the tree from which the sample came is a Chinese chestnut. I am enclosing my analysis of the leaf sample as an Excel spreadsheet. If you have trouble opening it and/or need it in a different format, please just let me know.
It is very cool that the house was built by a previous chestnut tree. I suspect that the tree now on the property was planted as replacement.
If you have any further questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Thanks again for your interest!
Sara Fern Fitzsimmons
Regional Science Coordinator – TACF®
The Pennsylvania State University