2007 Chestnut Harvest in the Appalachians

October 5, 2007

Nuts from open pollinated pure American chestnut trees growing in the wild and nuts from backcrossed, hand pollinated chestnut trees were harvested the fall of 2007. Despite a severe drought starting in the summer and extending into the fall, the number of burrs harvested is significant. The nuts will be removed from the burrs, labeled as to origin, and stored until the spring when they are ready for distribution to growers.

Carolinas Chapter members and friends had a hand in helping harvest the 2007 crop of chestnuts growing in the Appalachian Mountains. National Park Service, Blue Ridge Parkway biologists issued permits allowing collection of burrs from pure American chestnut trees in the Park.  The pollen that helped the nuts germinate came from other nearby American chestnut trees growing in the same clearing along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The nuts collected from pure American chestnut trees are:

1) Planted in mother tree orchards where they might be pollinated at a later date.

2) Planted in backcrossed orchards as a control since the trees they produce should be susceptible to and show a susceptible reaction to the inoculated blight used to test reactions in all orchard trees.

3) Distributed in seed kits that people request from the American Chestnut Foundation.

Harvested chestnuts are collected in bags that are labeled to indicate the origin of the nuts, the parent tree and the source of pollen, if hand pollinated. The bags of chestnut burrs are brought to a location to be “shucked.” Rubber gloves are worn by shuckers to protect their hands from being pricked and punctured by the dried out spines of the chestnut burrs.  It takes a person experienced in opening chestnut burrs to use a knife to do so safely. Once shucked, nuts are stored in moistened sphagnum moss and sealed inside plastic bags and are refrigerated at just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit to induce winterization. The dormant nuts will start sprouting next spring and will be ready for planting in orchards.