Bryan joins effort to restore American chestnut

June 4, 2014

ches9smBryan College joined forces with the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) Wednesday, November 14, when two American chestnut trees were planted as part of an effort to restore the tree to its native habitat.

Participating in the planting ceremony were, from left, front, Dr. Roger Sanders and Tom Saielli. Back, Bryan trustee Ralph Green, Area Forester Shannon Gann, Forestry Technician J.R. Allen, Academic Vice President Dr. Bradford Sample, Ruth Green, President Dr. Stephen Livesay, Center for Origins Research Director Dr. Todd Wood, Marilyn Smith of the Sunset Garden Club, and Dayton Mayor Bob Vincent. Tom Saielli, ACF southern regional science coordinator, said the trees planted Wednesday “symbolize 30 years of work, breeding and cross-breeding” American and Chinese chestnuts in an effort to develop a true American chestnut that has the blight-resistance of its Chinese counterpart. “They also symbolize hope. If we can be successful with the American chestnut, perhaps we can be successful (breeding disease-resistance) in other trees like the hemlock and pine.”

As he prepared the first tree for planting, Mr. Saielle recounted the history of the American chestnut. “Until about 100 years ago, it was the dominant tree in the hardwood forest in the east. It was a very useful tree. Its wood was used in construction, making musical instruments, railroad ties. It was a major source of tannin. About 100 years ago, a fungal pathogen was introduced accidentally from China,” he said. “It took about 50 years to wipe out the American chestnut.”

In the coming years, Dr. Roger Sanders, director of the Bryan Arboretum, will monitor and conduct research on the trees to help ACF with its assessment of blight resistance.

Bryan trustee Ralph Green, who attended the ceremony, recalled that “about 70 years ago, my father took me up the Ocoee Gorge, and I saw a lot of dead chestnuts there. He told me he remembered when these hills were covered with chestnuts.”

Bryan President Dr. Stephen Livesay promised that “We will be good stewards of these trees.” He acknowledged that a tree that produces nuts would fit in nicely on a campus that already “has a lot of nuts.”