In 1900, the fungus that virtually wiped out the American Chestnut tree was introduced to the United States. By 1940, almost all of the American Chestnut trees vanished. Most chestnut trees today are the Chinese Chestnut that is blight resistant. Why is this important to Chautauqua Antiques?
A great debate at my parents homestead has been going on for years. In 1830s their house on Buffalo St Ext shows up on the public record which was constructed by the chestnut trees on the property. Only two of the remaining chestnut trees existed when they moved in. My father is a firm believer that the Chestnut trees on the property are in fact the rare American Chestnut Tree. He’s inquired about it to local tree experts and without asking question they always answer ohhh it’s a Chinese Chestnut.
The archeological girl in me can’t let this rest. Over cocktails last night my dad asked me to use my handy dandy Ipad to identify the tree. So I went to the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) and worked on identifying the tree. I’m 89% sure it’s an American Chestnut… but the only real way for confirmation is to send a sample to the ACF. Our sample is headed down to the foundation today. The ladies at the post office were giving my husband and I some strange looks packing up our pods and leaves. This autumn we will investigate these antique trees and determine if indeed their house is made from American or Chinese Chestnuts.
One of the trees was very important to me because it was where my first tree fort existed. Over the years the trees were diseased or had been struck by the elements. The first tree died about 20 years ago. My tree was cut down 10 years ago but that isn’t the end of the story. My tree grew back. Today it stands 16ft tall and about 18″ in width. This season it produced it’s first chestnuts in years. Now for those who don’t know the chestnut tree it is a very “special tree” not the best tree for a tree fort. In the spring, it’s blooms which are called catkins are quite potent. They reek of a pungent smell almost a bit like urine. In the autumn, it produces burrs with sharp thorns that if you pick up or step on cause immense pain. Probably not the best place for a tree fort or maybe it was my own little fortress!
So let us know what you think below in the comments… American or Chinese? We’ll do a follow up post with the results from the ACF in 6 weeks.