Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Scientific American reports on the American Chestnut Tree

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Work will not begin at the Tyler Arboretum chestnut nursery for a few more weeks, but you can get a head start on learning about the American Chestnut Tree in this month’s issue of Scientific American.  This magazine does a great job writing about science topics without the jargon for a non-science audience.

The website for the March 2014 issue of Scientific American only gives a short preview for William Powell’s article titled The American Chestnut’s Genetic Rebirth (A foreign fungus nearly wiped out North America’s once vast chestnut forests. Genetic engineering can revive them), with the full article available in the print issue.  But there is a wonderful web article by Ferris Jabr available for free titled A New Generation of American Chestnut Trees May Redefine America’s Forests (Before an exotic fungus nearly wiped them out in the late 1800s, abundant chestnut trees shaped the forest ecosystem, providing food and shelter for numerous other species. In coming decades Chestnut trees engineered to battle the fungus could restore these lost relationships).

In diving deeper into the archives of Scientific American, I discovered that this magazine has been reporting on the American Chestnut since at least 1855, with an article titled Grafted Chestnut Trees.  Additional articles include:

1906 – A Disease Which Threatens the American Chestnut Tree

1912 – The Chestnut Tree Blight

1913 – Fighting the Chestnut Bark Disease

1915 – Chestnut Blight Poisoning

1990 – Chestnut Blight

2009 – Chestnut Trees Return to the Eastern U.S.

2009 – Chestnut’s Revival Could Slow Climate Change (*full article online!)

I find it interesting that there were articles in the early 1900’s, and then a large gap in reporting on the American Chestnut Tree for several decades.  It is good that the chestnut is back in the news – we still have so much more to learn, and much more work to do!

I hope to see you in Tyler’s chestnut nursery soon!


Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at

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