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KET Electronic Field Trips
The Forest
Can the American Chestnut Be Saved?
Chestnut Slide Show
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The American Chestnut tree once dominated forests throughout the eastern United States. Its durable wood was ideal for railroad ties and telegraph and telephone poles. And the elegant, shade-giving shape of the tree itself made it a favorite of town planners. In a famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a 19th-century village smithy stands under a “spreading chestnut tree.”

Today, though, very few mature American Chestnuts can be found in the eastern U.S. A fungal disease called chestnut blight, accidentally brought to America from Asia in 1904, has nearly wiped it out.

Foresters and scientists are now working to save the American Chestnut. They hope to use cross-breeding techniques to create a species that will resist the blight. These photos show how one healthy tree is identified in Kentucky and then carefully pollinated. The researchers involved in the project hope that it will grow to maturity free of disease and then produce new seedlings that are also resistant.

Start the slide show, then click on a thumbnail photo to see a larger version along with an explanation.

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