The American Chestnut, “king of the forest,” returns to Southern Highlands Reserve


WHAT: A ceremonial planting of three potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts and a presentation on the status of American chestnut restoration

WHERE: The Southern Highlands Reserve, Lake Toxaway, NC

WHEN: Saturday, June 16, 2012 from 4 to 6 pm

“King of the Forest” Returns to The Southern Highlands Reserve

On Saturday, June 16, from 4 to 6 pm, The Southern Highlands Reserve and The American Chestnut Foundation will host a reception and presentation at the Reserve’s research center at Lake Toxaway, N.C.

Bryan Burhans, president and CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), will give an update on the Foundation’s efforts to restore the American chestnut to our eastern forests. The presentation will be followed by a ceremonial planting of three potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts seedlings, called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. These seedlings are part of a unique scientific breeding program headed up by TACF to restore the American chestnut to the eastern forests of America.

Participants will have the opportunity to take home a pure American chestnut seedling. Although these trees are not resistant to the chestnut blight, they are fun to grow and many will produce seed in just a few years. Reservations are necessary to attend this event. Please call (828)885-2050 or email Kelly Holdbooks at to RSVP.

Once considered the “King” of the eastern forests, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. They were a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife and an essential component of the human economy. The chestnut was a staple in most American households through the beginning of the 20th century. Families depended on the nut as a major food source as well as a cash crop. Millions of bushels of the sweet-tasting nuts were hauled to cities like New York and Philadelphia and sold during the Christmas holidays. Farm families in the Appalachian Mountains fattened their hogs and other livestock on the nut, and children would fill their pockets with chestnuts to snack on at school.

But this was before a devastating blight struck in the first half of the 20th century. In 1904 the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight, accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the American chestnut population. By 1950 it had killed virtually all the mature trees from Maine to Georgia. Several attempts to breed blight-resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.

Then in 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation and began a special breeding process, which in 2005 produced the first potentially blight resistant trees called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. Now assisted by almost 6,000 members and volunteers in 23 states, the organization is undertaking the planting of Restoration Chestnuts in select locations throughout the eastern US as part of the Foundation’s early restoration efforts.

TACF is a 501(c) (3) conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC. For more information on TACF and their work to restore the American chestnut tree, contact Paul Franklin at (828)713-9547 email: . Or visit .

The Southern Highlands Reserve is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region and by advocating for their value through education, restoration and research. For more information, visit

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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