Pure American chestnut harvest at Duke orchard

Duke orchard is a germplasm conservation orchard started with a generous contribution from Duke Energy Company. Many of the trees have produced nuts for a number of years. Some years pollen is applied in spring to produce controlled crosses. This year the trees were open pollinated which means that trees were pollinated by pollen from other chestnuts in the orchard without pollen from specific trees being applied to specific mother trees.

Today, October 6, 2022, volunteers and staff harvested the nuts that resulted from the open pollination. Caleb Kell, orchard staff, harvested chestnut burrs from the tall trees using a lift vehicle. Other volunteers performed the prickly task of removing the nuts from the burrs. These nuts will be stratified over the winter and grown into seedlings in spring at several locations. Many of these seedlings will be used as rootstock for grafting. When chestnut trees are found in the wild, small twigs, called scion wood, can be taken from the wild tree and grafted onto the rootstock and grown into mature chestnuts. Other nuts will be planted in germplasm conservation orchards. The genetic material of the Duke trees contains traits which will be very valuable in future breeding of blight resistant chestnuts.

Caleb Kell harvesting chestnut burrs from our tall trees.

Volunteer Claud Diehl removes the nuts from the painfully spiny burrs.