The American chestnut once dominated Tennessee forests. But in the early 1900s, a blight almost entirely wiped out the species.
Thanks in part to the efforts of UT alum Stacy Clark, the tree could make a comeback. Clark, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, is testing blight-resistant trees that are 94 percent American chestnut and 6 percent Chinese chestnut.
“The American chestnut grows straight and tall, is highly valuable and has highly flavored edible nuts,” Clark explains. “All that differs from the Chinese. We want the trees to look and act like an American chestnut. But they have to have the resistance genes from Chinese chestnut.”
While the work and research will take years, re-establishing the American chestnut will have significant economic potential for Tennessee, as well as an impact on other trees facing similar fates. “If we are successful, this will be one of the greatest triumphs in the history of forest conservation,” Clark says.
Click the link to find out more about Tennessee’s tree species restoration efforts.