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Bull Hill Preserve Chestnut Hike in CT

Andy Rzeznikiewicz, Wyndham Land Trust land manager (blue tee), talks to participants about the Bull Hill Preserve. Photo by Michael Green.

On June 27, the CT-TACF Chapter held a chestnut hike along with the Wyndham Land Trust (WLT) and the Meshomasic Hiking Club to search for flowering American chestnut trees at the WLT Bull Hill Preserve. Last September, one of our members, Jack Morris, came across a small surviving tree loaded with burs while hiking with the club. The top of Bull Hill had been previously clear cut allowing many chestnut sprouts to regenerate. While collecting the burs last fall, we scanned the opening but couldn’t locate more bur-producing trees. Since the nuts were fertile, we knew there had to be more flowering trees in that clearing.

CT-TACF Chapter President Jack Swatt scans for flowering chestnut trees at the top of Bull Run. Photo by Michael Green.

WLT was very excited to learn about the presence of the surviving chestnut trees. We decided  to search the area for more flowering trees in late June when flowering would be more noticeable. The day was warm and sunny and the turnout was great but, given the current pandemic, social distancing guidelines were reviewed and put in place for everyone’s safety.  The view from the top of Bull Hill was stunning. While everyone else was enjoying the view, I began to scan for the telltale catkins of a flowering tree. One tree full of flowers was easily found, followed by a second nearby. In total, seven flowering trees were found that morning giving hope that more burs will be present when we go back to harvest more chestnuts this fall.

Sadly, the tree found last fall that had a bounty of burs had succumbed to the blight, but it’s progeny are surviving as seedlings in some of our Germplasm Conservation Orchards planted earlier this spring. With continued habitat management, for the chestnuts and the view, this location has the potential to successfully produce chestnuts for years to come.