Bethabara Park helps save the American Chestnut Restores "King of Forest" in NC Piedmont
"At 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4th, Historic Bethabara Park will participate in a major restoration project undertaken by The American Chestnut Foundation, when Carolinas Chapter President Doug Gillis will plant two American chestnut seedlings in the Bethabara Colonial Arboretum. The planting is sponsored by the Lawndale Garden Club in honor of two of its members.
Securing American chestnut seedlings has long been a goal for the Bethabara Arboretum. Once the dominant tree of the deciduous forests of Eastern North America, the American Chestnut was included on Christian Gottleib Reuter's tree inventory of the Wachovia Tract in 1764.
It has been estimated that there were once 4 billion chestnut trees throughout eastern North America. Fast growing, they could reach a height of 100 feet with a wide canopy. Early settlers and Native Americans depended on chestnuts for food and commerce, and it served as a source of food for wildlife. The wood was light, strong, and insect resistant and was used for furniture, with the bark and wood used also for tanning hides.
Chestnut blight was first discovered in New York City in 1904, when Japanese and Chinese chestnut trees were imported for use as ornamental trees and for the production of nuts. These trees had a genetic resistance to a fungus that American chestnuts did not have. Chestnut blight spread rapidly from the northeast down through the south, with deadly spores spread by wind, birds, and insects killing just about every American chestnut tree. By 1950, the American chestnut had disappeared.
The goal of The American Chestnut Foundation is to restore the American chestnut tree to eastern forests. The Foundation has been breeding chestnuts for disease resistance from hybrid chestnut seed on the TACF Meadowview Research Farms in Meadowview, VA on over one hundred fifty acres established in 1989. In 2005, the first potentially blight-resistant chestnuts were harvested. Volunteers support regional breeding by planting botanical gardens and arboretums with backcrossed seedlings.
Once known as the "King of the Forest", reforestation of eastern woodlands will take decades.
Historic Bethabara Park, a National Historic Landmark, is the 1753 site of the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina and the birthplace of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. For more information, visit ww.bethabarapark.org or call (336) 924-8191.