Tree evaluation and sample collection at Jackson-Washington State Forest

On May 22, a group of volunteers assembles at Jackson-Washington State Forest. Sara Fitzsimmons, the chapter’s regional science coordinator and Steven Hoy, who manages the chestnut orchard at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania attended. Sara is also at Penn State and is the TACF director of restoration as well.

The purpose of their visit was to evaluate the trees that the chapter had planted in 2003 at Jackson Washington and collect samples of fresh spring leaves from the best of these trees to perform DNA sequencing on.

The chestnut trees in this planting were from the chapter’s backcross breeding program under the guidance of Bruce Wakeland and Jim McKenna. They were B3F1 hybrids, meaning that first a pure Indiana American chestnut was crossed with a pure Chinese chestnut tree, the F1 part. Then the offspring were selected and “backcrossed” 3 times with pure American chestnuts. Finally, the most American appearing and most blight tolerant trees were  selected and planted in 2003 in the Shipley Tract at JWSF. Now, almost 20 years later it is possible to rate each tree according to its degree of blight tolerance and its American chestnut appearance. leaves from best of these trees were collected and sent for DNA studies to determine the percent of American and Chinese genetics in each tree. The overall best trees will be used for further breeding of blight tolerant chestnuts.

A number of Indiana chapter volunteers attended and their help was extremely valuable. The various tasks could be assigned to small teams and this made the work go quickly. We thank them for their time and efforts.

Bruce Wakeland, Sara Fitzsimmons, and volunteers are examining a chestnut tree:

Sara Fitzsimmons, Indiana Chapter Regional Science Coordinator and TACF Director of Restoration, measures the height of a chestnut tree with an optical instrument:

Sara Fitzsimmons and volunteers are examining a resprouting chestnut:

Steven Hoy, manager of chestnut orchard at Penn State, and Ron Doyle, long term chapter volunteer:

Bruce Wakeland, Indiana chapter founder and current chapter treasurer: