I blogged previously about my first time volunteering with Tyler’s American Chestnut Nursery volunteer crew, a group that goes out every Thursday morning in the spring through fall to “assist with pollination and fruit harvest as well as maintaining the tree nursery, as part of the breeding program for The American Chestnut Foundation.” I joined the group again on Thursday, September 19, for harvest time!
The group met at the Maintenance Shed first to pick up gloves, tools, buckets, a ladder – all the supplies we would need across the street at the nursery. Then we carpooled over and set to work! We split in to two teams and started to carefully remove the chestnut burrs from the trees. I say “carefully” for two reasons: (1) for research purposes, we had to record which burrs came from which trees, watching for crossing branches so we did not mix burrs from different trees in the same bucket; and (2) these burrs are prickly! Ouch! Thank goodness my work gloves were pretty thick, and Tyler was able to provide gloves to those volunteers that did not have their own. Since we had enough people to work in teams, we worked on collecting the burrs at the higher reaches of the trees, while others held the ladders and caught the burrs as they fell to the ground.
We filled our buckets with burrs, ones not yet open and ones ready to have the chestnut seeds removed, and headed back over to the Maintenance Shed for our second task of the morning – removing the seeds, counting the number of seeds harvested from each tree, and packing them up in Zip-Lock bags with moist soil for shipment to Penn State University. At Penn State, the seeds will remain in the bags and be placed in a 40 degree refrigerator until the spring. In just one morning, we collected over 1,000 seeds! That is alot of seeds, but there are so many more burrs that need to be removed from the trees. It looks like we will be very busy in the next few weeks! Although the nursery is fenced in, preventing deer from eating the seeds, birds are finding their way over the top of the fence, so there is some urgency to collecting as many seeds and burrs as possible to help with the research and overall mission to save the American Chestnut!
The final total of seeds sent to Penn State from Tyler’s nursery will clearly number in the thousands (John Wenderoth thinks the 4,000th seed will be shipped this week). And to think that Tyler Arboretum is only one of over 150 chestnut orchards participating in the Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation…. wow! I have made a note to myself that, during a future visit to Penn State University Park, I’ll see if I can get a look at the storage area for all of these seeds and hopefully meet the chapter staff. Volunteering with Tyler’s Chestnut Nursery group is certainly getting me excited for the PA-TACF fall meeting, being held at Tyler on November 2nd!