American chestnut on the Appalachian Trail

I was reminded this past weekend while hiking the Appalachian trail along the CT / MA border of what it must have been like a hundred years. Every so often our little hiking party would find ourselves under a spreading canopy of American chestnut leaves. A hundred years ago, when most of the trees were large American chestnut, this would have been the expectation. Today this is an unusual though not unknown treat.

Cheery trail hiker holding out a sample leaf – Photo taken by Bill Adamsen
Click on photo for larger view.

Two weeks ago I took my retriever for a quick hike along the trail and ran into some kids from the AT conservation maintenance unit. We got talking and realizing I would pass them again on my way out, I planned a little discussion on trees. I grabbed three different leaf samples: Chestnut Oak, American beech and American chestnut to show the kids and compare and contrast the leaves and talk about the similarities and differences of both the leaf morphology as well as tree ecology. I expected (and indeed it happened) that this would lead to an opportunity to discuss the trees life histories as well. These kids and their leader were more than up to the discussion (it was a sulty 85 degrees and they welcomed the break) and were thrilled to learn about the chestnut and that they were working in close proximity to so many remaining sprouts. One of them even knew that the three samples came from the same family … fagacea … which thrilled me as you can imagine.

A canopy of American chestnut leaves are not infrequently found along the Appalachian Trail in CT and MA – Photo taken by Bill Adamsen
Click on photo for larger view.

I hope that more young people take an interest in caring about the outdoors like these conservation workers. I hope that more kids and people learn about the ecological disaster that was the chestnut blight … and that people can take steps to right a wrong, like The American Chestnut Foundation is doing with the chestnut.

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Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen is a member of the CT Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) Board of Directors. He served as Chapter President for eight years.

Bill Adamsen

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