For more than two decades, the USDA Forest Service has conducted research to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut with the high hopes of restoring this once-dominant hardwood species.
Much of this research has focused on working with partners like the American Chestnut Foundation and the University of Tennessee to back-cross breed the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut with American chestnuts. Since 2009, about 4,500 hybrid American chestnut trees have been planted in three national forests. About 60% of the trees are still alive, some reaching 40 feet in height.
The American chestnut flourished in the eastern forests for more than 10 million years but was virtually wiped out within 60 years by a catastrophic blight.
Part 1 of the Forest Service’s two-part video program focuses on the historical significance of the American chestnut and its death knell.