American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

2017 Newsletter



Many thanks to the 116 growers who, last fall and winter, have reported a total of 3,103 ACCF chestnuts surviving. After abandoning parts of some research plots deemed not worthwhile, in the 16 remaining plots, I count 670 chestnuts still under my scrutiny and care. They can be divided into three approximately even groups by size, small (contained within 5-foot cages), medium (leader safely above deer-browse level and protected by 4-foot cages), and large (thick bark that deer rubs cannot injure, some cages removed). They were grown from controlled- and open-pollinated chestnuts, the same as those we have been sending out to growers since 1986.

2016 HARVEST:        

From our 2016 harvest, 110 cooperating growers planted 2,599 chestnuts. I planted in small nursery cages 150 additional nuts, from which varmints stole the lion’s share. And some growers picked their chestnuts at harvest, taking them home in the burs to process themselves, as most growers will be doing from now on. To Carl Absher, Brian McCrodden, Cathy & Richard Stoffer, Bill & Ruth Valentine thanks again for your help at harvest.


We have received request forms from 15 states; eleven of which have at least one harvest volunteer (VA, OH, PA, TN, WV, MA, NY, KY, IN, MI, WI). It may also be possible for growers from other states who are unable to attend harvest to get their burs from a harvester in the vicinity of Knoxville (TN), Rochester (MA) or Whitesburg (KY).

The NY volunteer lives out East on Long Island. On reading the summary above, perhaps some additional growers may note a possibility to acquire chestnuts; you may ask for the new Grower form via email and should mail it to us by mid-August.

          Open harvest days will be September 12, 16, 19 & 26 and October 3, 7 & 9. We shall accept no more than five volunteers on each of the first two dates, because we have just a small number of chestnuts that crack burs and drop nuts early. If you choose Sept. 12 or 16 send early notice, to be sure to get your desired date.

          I shall verify your date choice via e-mail and everyone who plans to participate will receive a sheet of directions to the Airport and the Big Field on Mt. Lake, along with what to wear and complete chestnut processing information. We start at 9 a.m. at the Airport, then move on to Mt Lake.


Long ago, when I used to report the number of grafts I had made each spring beside the number that actually grew, considering my poor results, a grower wrote, “If I were you, I’d give up grafting.” With many more years of experience, my numbers have not improved. There are just too many ways in which an outdoor graft can fail, and everything under the sun must be perfect for one to succeed. Among the many hundreds made since 1990, just 68 of my grafts survive. Only three of last year’s bark grafts made it through the winter, and this spring’s grafting produced only two whip grafts and three bark grafts.   

          On the other hand, three of Bruce Givens’ grafts from 1980 survive in very good shape and produce nuts, along with my 1991 yard graft, plus 12 others started at various locations between 1999 and 2004, all in good to excellent shape. These are grafts of original blight survivors and selections from our first- and second-generation all-American intercrosses. Without the grafts of original survivors, their genes would have been lost. This is also the case with a few of the second-generation intercross grafts, where the originals were killed by ambrosia beetle or Phytophthora. More recent grafts have replicated our best chestnuts in both of the breeding orchards and in many forest research plots at various altitudes, terrain, and aspect.

          Thus, the grafts verify Gary’s judgment of blight resistance, improve the quality and diversity of available pollen in our breeding orchards, and search the limits in which our chestnuts may be expected to survive and thrive. And occasionally, grafting can shorten breeding intervals by as much as eight years, when a graft succeeds and grows rapidly beside its desired mate.

CHESTNUT PRUNING can be safely done in fall, when the blight fungus does not sporulate; thus, blight infection is unlikely to be carried into new bark wounds. We prune dead limbs wherever possible but have cut healthy limbs in the past only to keep smaller chestnuts or new grafts from being rubbed or shaded out by larger spreading branches.                        

          Pruning is always a difficult choice. I have avoided it for too long and paid the consequences this summer when a 12-foot tall, densely limbed graft in full flower was blown over. Many much larger grafts in our Airport plot are similarly at risk, since the sheltering woods that used to surround them have been felled to make a second runway. Carl Absher, retired arborist, has helped select the branches we shall prune properly this fall and in the meanwhile, he cut some of their length to decrease the profile standing against the wind. He also stabilized a 20 ft tall, very rapid growing second shoot by using padded ropes tied to an anchor, an opposing branch and a larger chestnut. A similar shoot had already been taken down by the wind.  More thanks to Carl for helping to save these grafts.

          Should circumstances suggest pruning any of your American chestnuts, we advise consulting an experienced arborist and don’t forget that fall is the proper time for this job. Also, any growers who are about to set out a new chestnut plot in an exposed area, would be wise to plant a line of trees if there is nothing else to buffer the West wind.


This summer Mark Miller and crew, USDA-FS, are taking over the heavy work in six very fertile research plots in the Jefferson National Forest. We planted four of them in 2010, in the clearings from a timber harvest of trees killed by gypsy moth. The small chestnuts in my two earlier plots on this mountain survived the same scourge because I sprayed them with Sevin after every rain and spent a lot of time picking off and squashing caterpillars.

          Many very large stumps and not a few native chestnuts dotted the newly cleared land.  The stumps announced great growth potential. It didn’t occur to me that this applied equally to all the other trees that might sprout from old roots, or be freely sewn from other trees, or that briars over 10 feet tall and grape vines as thick as hawsers might also thrive there.  Within a year or two my little chestnuts were mostly shaded out; the whereabouts of many was hidden, cages and all. Exceptional soil fertility, requires regular, extensive control of competing vegetation. No hired help would take on this job more than once. Many thanks to Mark and his crew for coming to the rescue. Also, thanks again to Harry Cooper and Eric Hansen for volunteer help in some of these and several other research plots.

          This area also has resident ambrosia beetle, gall wasp and (last year) cicada. I have just finished treating 54 chestnuts, from five to nine feet tall, with Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub (BATS) to protect them form these insects which are unlikely to threaten the very small or large thick-barked chestnuts. The job took three days: inside each cage had to be weed-free first, then the BATS applied and watered immediately.

          In any case, I always clear weeds inside the cages, so I can see the first blight cankers, which usually appear at the base, because we judge chestnut resistance by how long they are able to keep the blight under control.  Also, those weeds must be cleared to see rodent holes and tunnels where poison bait can prevent damage to the roots. It may take the rest of July to weed inside cages and treat chestnuts in the last five plots.

          You may keep all the above in mind when you consider making woodland chestnut groves. If you expect them to amount to something, American chestnuts require regular attention for nearly as long as children. Should you make a large planting on your own land, you will have taken on a major maintenance job.  However, unlike the children, your chestnuts cannot move away.

PAST NEWSLETTERS can be found archived below the most recent one on our Web site. For new growers, we recommend reading RODENT CONTROL and INSECT CONTROL in the 2016 Newsletter, and also, PREVENTION IS...BEST and SIGNS OF STRESS in the 2014 Newsletter.


We have received quite a few inquiries about another breeding program which predicts blight resistance in American chestnuts into which their scientists have inserted a gene supposed to inhibit fungal growth. While this may work for annual field crops, we think it unlikely to succeed through the life span of a tree. Since our first progeny evaluations in the 1980s, the evidence strongly suggests that characteristics necessary for durable blight resistance may involve several genes, perhaps many. As we walk through the Big Field, it appears likely that all of them may be found in American chestnuts.

                                                                             Respectfully submitted,

                                                                             Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech


Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, New Johnsonville, TN


John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord College, WV


Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.


Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts






American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

2016 Newsletter


Chestnuts from the 2017 harvest will not be mailed to growers. Growers will come and pick their own nuts or arrange to get nuts from a nearby designated ACCF member who volunteers to pick for others. Growers will have to process their own chestnuts in the hot water bath at 120F for 20 minutes to kill weevil larvae. All who share in future crops must submit a new Grower Agreement Form including a pledge to have the number of planting holes and cages ready for October planting and permission to pass your email address to others for the purpose of chestnut distribution. In September, we shall email, to all growers who have submitted the new form, the dates of open harvest mornings, which will probably be Mondays and Wednesdays, with a Saturday thrown in if nuts are dropping when there is no home football game. We hope you may be able to cooperate with this new arrangement.


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:


Many, many thanks to the 198 growers who, this past fall and winter, have reported a total of 3,438 ACCF chestnuts and 22 grafts surviving, for a most gratifying leap forward into positive reporting territory.

          My 2016 census in Virginia counts 947 chestnuts of which over 100 were planted last fall from the 2015 harvest or grafted this past spring. They are spread among 19 research plots, mostly in National and State forests, and we have regular maintenance help in only six of these plots.  I write this last sentence, so you may better understand why we do not join any social media sites and are sometimes late responding to your important email questions.



From our 2015 harvest, 104 cooperating growers planted 1,526 chestnuts.  Because harvesting went on from September 9 through 30, I planted in small nursery cages at least 200 additional nuts, mostly from the earliest chestnuts which I could not store and did not have time to process and send out, since the harvest was still ongoing.  Rodents got nearly half of my nursery chestnuts, but I shall have enough small seedlings to plant all the empty spaces in the plot described below, and also to supply our best grower, Carol Croy, whom I forgot in the mad rush to get that last harvest into the mail.

          More thanks to harvest helpers Bill & Ruth Valentine, Mr. & Angelo Trivisomo, Carl Absher, Iain Waugh, David Munn, Cathy & Richard Stoffer.

          It appears that the coming harvest may be smaller than last year: many of the large bearing chestnuts in one of our breeding orchards have noticeably fewer burs and on a few I don’t see any. This happens when persistent, heavy rains fall in June, early July, or both, causing poor pollination. Thus we are unlikely to need harvest help this fall, except possibly on weekdays between September 19 and 23. As usual, we work on weekday mornings from 9 to 12 noon. To volunteer please contact me in early September via email at 



In the winter of 2015-16, we lost many chestnuts in a new plot, which Tree Experts created on a steep, wooded, rocky slope above 460.  They cut down nearly all the trees and poisoned all onsite and nearby ailanthus and paulownia. They left 2-foot stumps to hold several large trunks horizontally across the slope for erosion prevention and worker resting places. They marked with stakes forty planting places on the upper, sunnier half of the clearing, carried up protection cages, dug the first 30 holes among the rocks in deep sandy-loam, and planted two chestnuts per hole, as I had requested because most of the 50 chestnuts I had planted the previous winter along the quarter-mile trail leading toward this plot had been stolen by rodents and also because at this time we were focused on getting as much as possible of the surplus harvest into the ground, to avoid losses in storage.  Volunteers helped me dig and plant the last 10 holes as well as, re-digging the empty holes along the trail and adding some new ones there.  I put three chestnuts in my holes, so altogether, we planted more than 80 chestnuts, of which 11 survive in six cages, thus: three, two, two, one, one, one. The singles surviving, clearly fooled the rodents, while they probably just lost track of which cages they had raided in the case of multiple chestnut survivals.

          Unfortunately, birds like to roost on cages and, by the way, plant whichever kinds of wild berries they have lately been eating, so new plots require special attention. Among the briars I found many self-sewn tulip poplars, maples, hickories, oaks, and of course, ailanthus and pollonia, as well as, tall grasses, equally capable of shading out small chestnuts. Weeding is easiest in early morning following a soaking rain. It took three such mornings to clear the plot sufficiently for making an accurate chestnut census.

          I also unearthed acorns and many more hickory nuts before noticing that the tall, straight 10-inch trunk left standing in the upper right --because it is a beauty and only its trunk casts shade in the plot-- is a bearing hickory. No wonder the resident rodents are well-schooled gourmet nut-hunters.

          Thanks again to Tree Experts, Scott & Jenny Abla, and to the volunteers, Eli Lewis, Elizabeth Cooper and Alexander Franke who broke the ground to made this planting possible. You may be sure your hard work will amount to something: we shall re-dig all the empty holes and treat the perimeter of all cages as described below; next, at dormancy this coming fall, we shall transplant the resident extras into holes nearest their home cages, and finally, into remaining empty cages, we shall transplant my 2015 nursery seedling surplus.  This past year, nearly all successful transplants that replace losses along the lower trail were made in this way.



It is recommended to presume your chestnuts may be stolen by rodents.  Eight inch tall tree shelters, driven three inches into the prepared ground inside the protection cage and covered with fine netting are usually effective deterrents, but they are worse than useless when you have raccoons because they clearly mark the location of the prize. Where shelters are not a good idea, always tightly pack the soil inside the cages, including atop your unprotected chestnut(s), by stamping down with all your weight. Even when using tree shelters, this is a good idea.

          If pets are loose nearby, before planting chestnuts, we advise Repels All which deters by scent, thus, should be applied by locating tunnels: drive a stake into the soil at short intervals around the outside of the cage and pour a small helping of repellant into each hole, wherever the stake went down easily. Where it is safe to use poison, we have recommended Prozap, applied the same way as above. However, this product is no longer available at our local Feed & Seed, so we have switched to Sweeney’s Poison Peanuts Pellets, which should work as well, if not better. We shall see.

          Thanks to Harry Cooper for rodent control in the Mountain Lake breeding orchard.  And thanks to James Raitmaier, the outstanding cooperator who warned me last summer that mothballs can poison trees as well as rodents.


INSECT CONTROL, especially for Southern and mid Atlantic growers:

This spring and early summer, insects have given much more trouble than usual: in rapid succession, we found widespread evidence of ambrosia beetle (pinholes in bark), gall wasp (deformed leaves, crumpled around a swollen, often pink gall) and cicada (numerous slits in the bark of smaller branches and twigs) in many of our research plots and breeding orchards.

          An annual treatment with Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub (BAS&T), is capable of controlling these insects, if properly applied. Measurement of the circumference of trees at breast height determines the amount of product to be used. When the soil is dry, the required amount of liquid concentrate is mixed in a gallon of water, and the drench is applied in a circle around the trunk. This year a granular version of the same product came on the market, applied similarly, except the granules are sprinkled directly on the weed-free soil. The application is then watered, but it takes much less than a gallon of water to wet all the granules. Either way, it is very expensive, requiring lots of time, and also high-priced, so if you decide to try it, get your time and money’s worth by reading the label first.

          Since water must be carried, usually quite a distance and often uphill, to nearly all our plots, we have switched to the granules.  In past years, I have limited use of this product to grafts, planning to protect them from their second spring onward until they no longer have smooth bark within reach because grafts are not easily replaced and they can be totally destroyed when the blight fungus enters wounds in a smooth-barked trunk, while a tree that is not a graft can be cut at the base, the infested part burned or bagged and buried, but it will re-sprout and grow much more rapidly than a nut or newly transplanted seedling. Before I learned about BAS&T, that is what I did to remove infested seedlings and grafts from our yard and in the breeding orchards. However, in the forest plots, down at ground level it is much more difficult to maintain the sunshine exposure required for rapid regeneration. Also, our yard and several of the research plots contain new breeding lines with potential that cannot be evaluated until they reach at least 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height, are attacked by the blight fungus and the canker development has been observed through several years which include at least a few very severe winters and springs.  For these reasons, this year I also undertook treatment of all the yard seedlings and those in three of our forest research plots in which the chestnuts are small, none have flowered and none have yet been attacked by the blight.

          Two workers are better for applying the BAS&T treatment. Thanks again to Victoria Lewis who made the job go much faster in our Airport breeding orchard.



I made 51 whip grafts, of which just3 are growing; one is still inside its cage because a deer ate the top before I got around to replacing its shorter cage with a 5-footer. Another, growing on a very steep slope, is over six feet tall, and its leader is doubly protected with an extra cage laid against the uphill side of its 5-foot cage, just in case a very tall deer should pass that way. These whip grafts were executed March 28 & 31 and April 7, or late and very late in our usual window of opportunity for whip-grafting.  In future I shall not begin whip-grafting for at least two weeks following any deep freeze in March, and make up the difference later.

          Unsatisfied with this paltry result, I returned to the bark graft. Because of difficulty making clean cuts across the small stocks (I prefer), my expectations were low for the first nine bark grafts, but two are growing. Then I ordered a folding pocket saw, which did not tear the slipping bark. Among nine more bark grafts made using my new tool, April 27 & 28, six more are growing.

          Since 1991, altogether 79 of my grafts survive, 32 will bear nuts this fall, and four others have made their first catkins.


POLLINATION can be fully or partly controlled. Last summer, Eric Hanson made controlled pollinations: spray water on flowers within reach, using a damp paintbrush dipped into a zip-lock bag of pollen, brush pollen onto the flowers, then enclose pollinated flowers in bags.

          This summer, Harry Cooper threw a rope line over a limb 15 feet up the trunk of a yard chestnut, to which I later attached a half-gallon jug of water holding a bouquet of catkins and hauled the catkins much closer to the flowers than my last year’s try. Lise Cooper and Matthew Griffin removed all catkins from a few trees in a small planting, to make possible only the desired intercrosses; and while I held down the flagged branches, Matthew tied long catkins around the flowers within reach. 

          Traditional controlled pollination methods produce very few if any chestnuts, depending on whether flowers are receptive when pollinated. Without bags, letting wind and bees finish the job, many more chestnuts are produced. Thanks again to Eric, Harry, Lise and Matthew for this as well as other, much more arduous or rather boring work in our forest research plots.


I no longer let helpers weed inside cages, never forget to give thanks that I can still do this job myself, so I may note when first blight cankers appear (usually at the base), follow their development and bring Gary’s attention to outstanding or questionable results, for a decision whether the seedling should be grafted or cut at ground level for a second, clean chance via its best new sprout. From the beginning, we chose to involve our family in the chestnut work. Most volunteers we have cited are family members, raised to pitch in. This has proved convenient because we rarely know in advance when help may be required, but can always ask for it when they visit.  We hope your chestnut project may benefit from similar volunteer helpers and look forward to reading your reports.

Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech


Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, New Johnsonville, TN 


John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord  College, WV


Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.


Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts







American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

 2015 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:



We received 155 reports this past winter from cooperating growers, for a total of 2,609 ACCF chestnuts growing in 29 states and Canada.  Fewer reports and fewer chestnuts than the previous year was a disappointment.  We guess it might be partly attributed to discouragement of  far northern growers, because of high losses sustained over the very  severe winter of 2012-13.   We strongly encourage all growers to report by fall of each year, no matter what.   Even if your report may be a zero, it tells us that you have not given up and can try again another yearMost of our best, long-term growers have experienced disaster at one time or another.  I myself learned the hard way most of what I know about raising American chestnuts.   Our newsletters aim to share that experience, in hopes of making your job a little less challenging.


Our chestnut census in Virginia Research plots as of mid-June is 812 of which 146  we planted last fall from the 2014 harvest.  Our heavy losses were in the Lesesne; I have decided we should no longer count the chestnuts there which have not yet demonstrated blight resistance and are growing in any of the sections in which Phytophthora and/or voles are likely to prevent them from reaching the 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) which we require for blight resistance testing.


Our most shocking setback occurred in a seven-year-old research plot of third-generation intercrosses.  Half of the larger seedlings and several smaller ones made grossly deformed, undersized and discolored leaves.  On many, all the leaves were ruined, while on others the deformities showed up on half or fewer of the branches.  Gary investigated; he suspects a chemical weed treatment on the driveway above may have drifted through the plot.  I cut many trees at ground level and severely pruned several others.  I have counted all these trees in our census, because we expect them to sprout back from the root.  The moral of the story:  better plant where you have total control of area maintenance.



From our 2014 harvest our friends and cooperating growers planted 4,090 chestnuts.  Lucky for me,  1,362 of these were planted by harvest helpers who took their chestnuts home in the bur to process themselves (in a hot water bath at 120 F for 20 minutes, cool, dry, and plant).  It was a big harvest, and we had fewer than the usual number of growers, so I contacted as many as possible via email and nearly all of these growers agreed to plant more than the usual limit of 10.  In case a surplus should occur again, please indicate on your chestnut request whether you may be able to plant more than 10 chestnuts this fall and if so, how many.

Help at harvest is always welcome.  We begin this work usually in the second half of September.  We work on weekday mornings from 9 to 12 noon.   To volunteer contact me in early September via email at     At that time, I should be able to make a good guess to let you know when help may be needed.



The planting directions we send in the thank you letter following your report and donation are more or less the same year after year:  we ask you to prepare the planting place well in advance, and sink an eight-inch tree shelter three inches down in the center of four- or five-foot tall wire protection cages that are supported by one or two robust stakes and decorated with bright flagging.  Upon receiving your chestnut seed, you then push one nut into the soil inside each shelter, cover with an inch of peat moss and secure netting over the top of the shelter.


In a single page the space is insufficient to give all the reasons for our recommendations, although last year we did print additional advice on the other side of the page, especially for northern growers following that very severe winter.  Below we shall give you the reasons for our planting recommendations, as well as some alternative ideas for dealing with exceptional or unforeseen circumstances.


Tall cages keep the deer from eating the chestnut tops so your chestnuts have the chance to become trees rather than bushes.   I use both four- and five-foot cages.   The five-footers have  a 2” x 4” grid, good for deterring nibbling by small animals, also.  Once a chestnut is seven feet tall, I switch to a four-foot, woven wire cage which has a much larger grid, thus is more convenient for weeding inside cages.  To weed in the taller cages you must first remove the cage.   Our directions call for the cages to be 2.5 feet in diameter; however, narrower cages, 20” in diameter, can be used with success if you take care to keep the tree leaders centered within their cages.  To do this, cut a two foot switch and lay it across the cage grid at center, between the seedling and the side that faces the sun, toward which the seedling would otherwise be likely to grow out of the cage, to be nipped off by deer.  Narrower cages are, of course, useful to save money, but also much easier to carry in the woods, up or down the mountain.


Sunken tree shelters can protect seed nuts from underground attack; the netting deters field mice from nesting inside where they are likely to discover a treat in their basement.  The shelters also help retain soil moisture, to stimulate rapid first-season growth, and some years they eliminate the need to water.  The netting must be removed in spring, once a seedling has four leaves, to prevent deformity, in case a growth spurt should be held down by the netting.  The shelter should be removed during dormancy, following the first growing season, unless the seedling is not yet 12 inches tall.  Remember, the chestnut taproot is at least as deep as the seedling is tall.  However, leaving the shelter in place longer than necessary risks an early blight infection on seedlings much too small for blight resistance to prevail.  The damp environment inside shelters makes them excellent incubators for the blight fungus.


In places where raccoons are a regular nuisance, tree shelters are a bad idea.  It is not possible to stake a shelter in place in such a way that cannot be defeated by a big, curious raccoon.  Once the raccoons learn what is protected by shelters, a shelter invites theft.  In this case, chestnut plantings must be disguised.  After the area which is to be inside the cage has been reworked, roots, rocks & weeds removed, you push one or two chestnuts into the loose soil no more than an inch and not near the center, cover with soil and stamp down the whole area, compacting the bare soil to look as if nothing has been planted there.  I have twice done this in areas where raccoons had stolen all of the last season’s sheltered planting and both times enough chestnuts grew to fill all empty cages; one time I needed to make new planting places for the surplus.  In November, you transplant the extras to have one per cage.   Choose the smaller ones for transplant, and center the one left in its original cage, by moving the cage slightly.


If you should accept much more chestnut seed than you have prepared places to plant,  proceed in much the same way as when fooling raccoons.  In this case, you use small grid cages of larger-diameter, but four-feet is tall enough when making nurseries.  I prefer to put nursery cages in semi-shade so that the seedlings will not grow very big, thus can be moved and transplanted  more easily (in November).  After the soil inside the cage is prepared as above.  Using four-inch spacing, you press the chestnuts one inch down, cover with soil, compact the soil by stamping.   Return once a month to look for signs of tunneling, mounds or holes inside or near the cage.  To deter voles or moles:  If  you discover signs of digging  inside or near the cage, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the cage perimeter.  In this way I have planted up to 14 chestnuts per cage.  Over a three-year period, more than half of my nursery plantings have yielded at least 90%; in the rest we usually got 50% success; but where vigilance was lax, one nursery planting was wiped out.  


Small nursery seedlings require special transplanting.  First clip off any remnant of the nut, which might otherwise attract trouble.  Although, in woods where oaks and nut trees seed themselves, the squirrels expect to find a nut attached, so will uproot small transplants unless you protect them through the first winter in short tree shelters covered with netting.  Plant seedlings at the same level  as they were growing in your nursery and press the soil firmly around them, then push your shelters into the soil.  Eventually in all our research plots, tunneling varmints have discovered chestnut plantings, although in one plot it took them more than 10 years to move in.



I made 90 new whip grafts, of which 16 are still growing, most of them at or over four-feet tall by June.  One is in poor shape, with its stock  being undermined by an unidentified tunneling varmint.  Once again in late March, we had a two-day freeze following the first warm spell, but it was not as severe as in the previous spring, and I had taken measures to minimize losses:  after completing a graft, now I always cut away all other chestnut shoots from that root system, to prevent the shock of a late freeze from weakening my stock, and I put double bonnets over the shelters on all grafts made in March.  Once again, from more than half of the chestnuts on which I had collected scions, I did not get a single successful graft; while in most cases, the other scions made more than one successful graft.   Therefore, I am attributing up to half of my failed grafts to weak scions, and for the rest, careless technique must have caused the failure.  It is always tempting to keep on grafting when the weather conditions are perfect:  overcast with no wind and high humidity, cool but comfortable for working outdoors.  But better to quit before you are tired, give thanks for that day and trust that others like it may follow.  


65 of my older grafts survive;  35 will bear nuts.  I lost three grafts, ranging between seven and 15 feet tall, one on which I had collected scions last winter and which had born chestnuts last fall.  They were undermined by tunneling which permitted blight to develop underground, below the graft union. 



Thanks again to Mark Miller,  and his USDA-FS crew, for cutting out the competing trees in our Turkey Run plots, where they grow so fast, I was unable to keep our seedlings in the sunshine.  Many thanks to Bill Valentine, Brian McCrodden, Mr & Mrs Vincent Santamaria & Suzy, Richard Stoffer, Mark Castator, Jane & Jim Reilly, Corry Shaffer & Sarah, Berenice Kinght, & Ross Ritch for volunteer harvest help and also for planting large numbers of the harvest’s precious surplus.  Once again, Corry & Sarah also helped me get your chestnuts out of their burs, and Corry came for a grafting lesson in March.  More thanks to Eli Lewis for extensive assistance with routine plot work, as well as the much harder job of cutting trees to help open up a new woodland research plot.  We  always think of John Buschmann when working in the Lesesne;  his generosity continues to support maintenance there.


We are often asked how our chestnuts are coming along.  The answer to this simple question is rather complex:  Many ACCF chestnuts have expressed blight resistance equal to an original blight survivor, but so far only a handful have demonstrated superior, durable blight control.   However, we must wait longer to assess durable blight resistance among the progeny of these best chestnuts because their nut production is recent and/or not yet yielding sufficient numbers.   Also, the difference in stresses among  chestnuts planted in different environments is likely to cause variations in the durability of manifested blight control among progeny in each breeding family.  This is the big reason why we look forward to and depend upon your reports.   Thank you all for working on behalf of American chestnut revival.


Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech

Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, New Johnsonville, TN 

John Rush Elkins, Secretary,  Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord  College, WV

Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.

Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus,  Raleigh, NC

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts




American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

 2014 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:



We received 174 reports this past winter from cooperating growers with a total of 3,332 ACCF chestnuts growing in 33 states and Canada.  So far this summer we have received five reports with a total of 73 chestnuts growing.  


At mid-July, I am unable to tally chestnut survivors in the Lesesne because the temperature and weeds are too high for me to walk the whole three acres and still get the pressing work done there.  In our other plots, we have 559 seedling survivors of all sizes; they represent three generations of breeding, including many big beauties.  By estimating probable losses in the Lesesne, from Phytophthora, voles, and/or blight, we guess 300 ACCF seedlings may survive there, also.


Our biggest losses last winter were in National Forest plots, where I transplanted many tiny forest-nursery seedlings, between six and 18 inches tall last November.  When I checked in late February, I found nearly all the seedlings had been either completely or partially uprooted; this was the work of hungry squirrels searching for nuts that were not there.  Replanting them only saved six.   So I have learned the hard way to plant very small seedlings just like we direct-seed nuts:  protected by a tree shelter with net covering.


We look forward to your reports, while remembering Virgil L. Downs, who passed away at 93 last year.  He planted some of the first chestnuts from Al Dietz’s project (Blue Ridge chestnuts collected and irradiated to produce mutations that might favor blight resistance).  Thus, his cooperation with our work preceded by several years the incorporation of ACCF in 1985, and all these years he stayed with his project and reported regularly.



172 cooperating growers planted at least 2,200 seednuts from the 2013 harvest.  You may remember that last year’s harvest was smaller than usual due to heavy, frequent rains at pollination time.  This year’s weather has been more conducive to our usual, much bigger  harvest.   More important, from our point of view, is that large numbers of grafts and seedlings in our breeding orchards will be bearing chestnuts for the first time, while a few others have made first catkins.  Although  most of the nuts to go out to growers this fall will have the same designations as in past years, many will have different pollinators.  Among these new pollinators are four original survivors, six selected first-generation intercrosses, and eight second- and third-generation intercrosses.            


Volunteers to help at harvest should contact us via email at    We harvest from nine a.m. till noon on weekdays in the second half of September, and sometimes also in early October.  Precise dates cannot be fixed until September, when we can better predict on which days help may be needed.  Harvest volunteers may take home at least one dog food bag full of chestnut burs and have an actual tour of an ACCF breeding orchard. 



This year we omit the virtual tour, because the eight remaining plots are either much smaller or younger than those we have featured in past years, thus they are not yet ready to show off...maybe next year.  We have used virtual tours in past newsletters for the purpose of highlighting problems raising American chestnuts in different environments, along with solutions that have worked for us.  You may find them archived on our Web site below the current newsletter.  This year, instead of a tour, we have made a  summary of chestnut-growing problems and solutions, for those who may not have internet access, and others who may prefer to read with paper in hand while sitting in the favorite chair.       



The worst problems may be avoided by careful site selection.  Never plant chestnuts in or beside former fruit orchards where voles are almost always well established.  The American chestnut thrives in acid, well-drained soils, on sloping lands (the steeper the better), planted in the upper half of the slope/clearing (to avoid frost pockets),  and facing north to east to get full morning sun and avoid the drier south and western slopes which are also subject to winter kill (when very warm afternoons heat up the bark, followed by steep temperature drops at night which crack the bark).  Do not plant on flat land or in heavy clay because your chestnuts would always be at high risk for root rot.


If you live in the Piedmont, where Phytophthora is widespread, work in your chestnut plot only when it is dry.  Do not use ponds for a watering source.  Limit or ban vehicular traffic in the plot regardless of weather unless the tires have first been power washed.  Soak for two minutes in a 20% clorox solution any tools, gloves, soles of shoes which have been used elsewhere before re-using in the chestnut plot.  Growers who do not live in the Piedmont should avoid buying plants from southern nurseries which could introduce Phytophthora to your land.                               Many problems can be avoided or contained by keeping the area inside chestnut protection cages free from weeds, grass, leaves, mulch or other ground covers.  All these things invite burrowing rodents, and hide their presence while populations increase.  High weeds or mulch may also cover up the first sign of blight, which is usually at the base of a seedling and should be mentioned in your reports.


When seedlings in their first few growing seasons are much too small to usefully express blight resistance,  blight may be introduced via insect wounds.  Many insects can be controlled by spraying Sevin on the stem and leaves.  Where ambrosia beetle and/or gall wasp have been identified nearby, but not yet observed on your chestnuts,  an annual treatment in early March with  Bayer Advanced tree & shrub can protect the smooth-bark chestnuts smaller than four inches in diameter at breast height (the rough bark of older chestnuts deters ambrosia beetle).  If these pests are already in your chestnut planting, Bayer Advanced  can control gall wasp.



The leaves on a thriving American chestnut grow large and turn dark green.  Stress is announced by leaves that remain small and do not turn dark green, but stay light green or turn yellow-green.   There are many possible causes for stress, requiring a little detective work; we list them in order of difficulty to deal with, beginning with the easiest.


Examine the trunk from all angles for signs of blight.  There are pictures on the Blight page of our Web site.  If the chestnut showing stress from a blight canker is smaller than 1.5 inches in diameter at chest height (DBH),  cut the stem at the base and cover your cut with soil.  It should sprout back vigorously.  You then choose a stem to support with plastic ties to a strong stake, or two stakes if the area is exposed to high winds.  Remove all other sprouts.  The new sprout will grow rapidly for a second chance to grow big enough for an expression of blight resistance (swellings beside and/or around the canker) to control a blight canker.  The easiest way to tell that blight is under control:  leaves grow large and turn dark green. 


A chestnut over 1.5 inches DBH showing stress from blight canker(s) has not inherited blight resistance or else its blight resistance is insufficient for this site.  You may cut it down and poison the stump, unless, upon reading the Grafting page of our Web site, you decide to try to take advantage of the large, established root system to graft a blight resistant chestnut scion into a stump sprout the following spring.  Virginia growers may contact me via email in January to request a few scions.  Because of the gall wasp, we cannot send scions to most states. 


If  no blight is visible, look for pinholes on the trunk; ambrosia beetle bores holes, lays eggs and the next generation escapes via these holes.  If any are found, cut down the tree in one-foot segments and burn it right away, or put the infested wood into double plastic bags to go to the landfill.  Next, examine all your other trees, which also may have been attacked but do not yet advertise their stress.   If you find more pinholes on good-looking chestnuts,  try to kill the beetles by spraying permethrin into the holes.   Then, early next March you must treat all your trees with Bayer Advanced tree and shrub to prevent further setbacks.  Chestnut stems killed by ambrosia beetle also sprout well from the base, and you can select and protect the best sprout (as above) to give the tree a second chance.


Water small, stressed chestnuts, one gallon for seedlings over three feet tall, or one quart for yearlings a foot tall or shorter no more than once a week.   Sometimes they just happen to be in an unfavorable position which does not receive sufficient rain, although others in your planting do, and they may perk right up with regular watering.  Otherwise, voles or moles may be at work.  Sometimes the stream of water will expose a tunnel.  If not, probe the area inside the cage with a good stick.  If the stick encounters strong resistance everywhere, tunneling rodents are not the problem.  If the stick sinks suddenly in one or more places you have located the tunnels into which you pour the rodent deterrent.  Prozap is best; but it is a poisoned bait, thus useful only in plots beyond the hunting range of your cats.  In our yard and also our nearest forest plot I use Plantskydd instead, which is supposed to deter by scent and last for one growing season, but it is not as efficient as poison, so I supplement the treatment by chewing gum when working here and put a wad down any new holes; mothballs may work just as well.


When watering chestnuts shows no benefit or seems to increase their decline, you have a root rot problem which is caused by poorly drained soil inhabited by pathogens which for purposes of growing trees we are unable to control.  The recommendation is to start all over in a better planting site that fits the description above.              



I made 60 new whip grafts, of which 8 are still growing, but one is in poor shape and may not make it.  Several other grafts also started very strongly, only to disappoint me.  This was a most difficult year because we had two consecutive days in late March when the temperature went down to 20F and did not exceed 28F.  I had one graft growing then which died from the shock.  After examining the limbs where I had collected scions,  I am attributing at least half of the remaining failures to weak scionwood.  Some of those branches which looked fine in winter, died of blight this spring; others showed signs of extensive gall wasp damage: many buds, on otherwise healthy limbs, opened partially then died, while other buds which opened completely made distorted leaves from gall wasp.  Although treating the grafts with Bayer Advanced insecticide in early March, appears to prevent gall wasps from hatching out, the buds in which its eggs were laid have been ruined for grafting purposes.  


67 of my grafts survive;  31 will bear nuts.  Most grafts are ‘selected’ chestnuts, which means they have passed Gary’s tests and demonstrated blight resistance:  for parent trees, among original survivors whose first blight canker is on record, blight has been under control for up to 33 years; the first-generation, selected  intercrosses have had blight under control for at least 10 years. ‘Control’ means the tree confines blight to the outer bark, or callus surrounds cankers to bypass and finally seal them off; there is no death in the tree’s crown, but we see the strong upward growth needed to compete in the forest.  Our second-generation grafts have yet to be fully tested; we assume that those making swollen first cankers may have inherited significant blight resistance;  in five more years we might be able to claim blight control for them, also.                           




Thanks to Mark Miller, USDA-FS, for making and posting signs to deter vandalism in cooperative research National Forest plots visible from the road.  We thank the Mary Moody Northern Foundation and Virginia Tech for plot maintenance on Salt Pond Mountain, and  always remember John Buschmann whose generosity continues to support maintenance in the Lesesne.  Many thanks to Carol Croy, Marilyn Meador, Bill Valentine, Jim Shaeffer, Jane & Jim Reilly, Mark & Lynette Castator for volunteer harvest help.  Special thanks to Corry Shaffer and his fiancé who helped remove chestnuts from bags full of burs, then picked many high burs which no one else had been able to reach.   


Many hands may not always make the work  light, but certainly they make the biggest jobs possible. We thank you all for working on behalf of American chestnut revival and look forward to your reports.                  


Respectfully submitted

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors


Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech

Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, New Johnsonville, TN 

John Rush Elkins, Secretary,  Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord  College, WV

Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.

Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus,  Raleigh, NC

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts




American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation

2013 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:


In 2012, we received 185 reports from growers in 28 states plus Quebec and Prince Edward Island, totaling 3,122 ACCF chestnuts surviving. So far this year, 10 growers have reported 247 ACCF chestnuts surviving. We look forward to your reports with hope that the 2013 numbers may once again surpass previous years' reports.


When November arrived, and all orders had been filled, with extras sent to established growers who had indicated they could plant more than 10, we still had many more chestnuts left than we had places to plant them. We cannot safely store chestnuts here after October. Most empty planting cages in research plots received one 2012 chestnut, then we converted several larger cages into miniature nursery beds to plant small, odd seed lots, ranging from 5 to 16 nuts per cage. Luckily, only one of these beds was penetrated by rodents, so instead of planting nuts this coming November, we shall be transplanting seedlings. You may read in this year's virtual tour the method used to turn a planting cage into a small forest nursery.


Well above normal rainfall in our area throughout spring has produced wonderful chestnut growth and above 90% germination. Most losses among our seedlings were to rodents in several plots, and to a hard freeze on May 14 in the Rocky Mt. Road plots in western Giles County. Remaining under our care are 904 chestnuts grown from seed. This figure does not include the native chestnuts growing in most forest plots or many ACCF chestnuts which have either failed blight resistance tests or were not judged best in their family in a breeding orchard and must be continuously cut back to prevent them from fertilizing the chosen chestnuts and also protected from deer so that they may make healthy stocks to support future grafts.

HARVEST: 157 cooperating growers planted at least 3,725 seednuts from the 2012 harvest; we did not yet learn the numbers planted by a few growers who helped at harvest and took their chestnuts home in the bur to process themselves. Jane and Jim Reilly, saved us a huge load of work by taking nearly one third of the harvest in the burs.  Melissa and George Collins and family helped one morning in another breeding orchard, returned home also with a few bags of burs, to process themselves, and planted 186 chestnuts. In the first location, the chestnuts must have been fully pollinated, 3 per bur, while most of the Collins burs held fewer chestnuts, showing how heavy rains during pollination can decrease the numbers of chestnuts per bur. Unfortunately, we have had heavy rains almost daily for the last two weeks in June and the first 11 days in July.


Volunteers to help at harvest should contact us via email at  We harvest from nine a.m. till noon on weekdays in the second half of September, and sometimes also in early October. Precise dates cannot be fixed until September, when we can better predict on which days help may be needed.  Harvest volunteers may take home at least one dog food bags full of chestnut burs.


Turkey Run consists of a pair of side-by-side forest research plots started under a National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) grant in 2002, and named for a logging road in the Jefferson National Forest. When Ed Leonard showed me the area, we saw no turkeys. But since then, on my way to these plots, I often see one or more turkeys running up the road ahead of my pickup.


A mile or so past the gate and 100 yards uphill from the road, two east-facing select cuts are separated by a steep and narrow, timbered drain.  The cuts were less than 10 years old, grown back to dense cover. Ed offered to have the Blacksburg Ranger Station crew clear and prepare both sides for planting American chestnuts. Instead, because there were so many native chestnuts in various stages of blight infection, I asked to have the competing trees cut back to make full sun for a grafting plot. We let the dogwood grow, along with mountain laurel, pink and flame azaleas, blackberries and blueberries. In spring it is a lovely place to bring a picnic lunch.


My idea was to collect scions from one-year-old, second-generation (Miles x Ruth) seedlings and graft them into the established chestnuts at ground level. Successful grafts into mature root systems in full sun can grow more than twice as fast as seedlings; they may reach 1.5 inches in diameter and flower within three years. This could permit resistance testing in four or five years instead of the usual minimum 10 year interval between selections.


We did most of the grafting in spring of 2002 and 2003. Soon we had 16 grafts left of the timbered drain and three to the right. Many approached 10 feet tall and one was even taller. NWTF people and quite a few cooperating grower/grafters who contemplated making forest chestnut plots came for tours and were impressed.  But early success was swiftly followed by a long series of disappointments and challenges, adding up to quite an education... the hard way.


In ideal forest sites you will find large tree stumps for solid evidence that big trees can grow there, as well as deep, well-drained, sandy loam soils, which produce the rapid growth desired in chestnut plots. These sites require regular, extensive management to keep competing trees from shading the chestnuts. This job proved too much for me. We first got help from family and other volunteers wielding loppers and hand saw, followed by hired high school students using the same tools. In 2004, we abandoned the upper half on the right side because bears were disputing that territory. In 2007, we brought in a professional tree service to clear a small cove on the lower right, judged to be the best place to plant chestnuts by direct-seeding. Since then, this is the only part of Turkey Run which is always in full sun because better site preparation put the job of keeping it open within our capacity. In 2010, we gave up on managing the upper 10 yards on the left side. All the while, other trees and briars were growing out of control, obliterating trails and shading the remaining grafts, in spite of the volunteer and hired help. No doubt, this is why Ed had recommended clearing and preparing both sides for planting.


During the ongoing battle with encroaching forest, one by one, my big grafts failed. Here is where I lost faith in the bark graft.   The Italians warn that bark grafts make the weakest union and advise pruning the graft early in the first year, to strengthen the union and reduce the amount of weight exposed to the wind. Considering the rampant growth of other trees, I was unwilling to prune grafts; high winds pruned several back to nothing.  New shoots, where the first grafts flopped, were perfect for making whip grafts, where you must match the diameter of scion and stock. Whip grafts make the strongest union and may not need to be pruned.


Among my surviving original grafts, some became heavily blighted at the base and died before reaching 1.5 inches in diameter.  Nine grew to the required diameter for useful blight-resistance expression and made swollen cankers following first blight attack, most often on the lower trunk, but sometimes also in small branches. We inoculated hypovirulent strains of the blight fungus on the margins of trunk cankers; nevertheless, within a few years, five of them died, followed three years later by another after it first produced two nut crops from pollen brought to the tree. On its back side which was shaded out by a dense laurel bush over seven feet tall, the canker could not be controlled. 


Meanwhile whip grafts were growing too slowly, some began to die mysteriously with no signs of blight, and one of the chestnuts, after its first graft was killed by ambrosia beetles, did not sprout back. This suggested weakened root systems, and excavations revealed extensive tunneling around all chestnut roots. Some roots had blight where there were air spaces; others showed widespread gnawing. Moles and voles killed at least eight grafts. Unwilling to abandon a great growing site, we began regular sweeps, looking for holes and probing for tunnels into which we put baited poison supposed to kill rodents (Prozap worked best). In 2010, Karl Cooper and chain saw widened what remained of the central trail on the left side to make eight yards of space for direct-seeding a dozen more chestnuts.


We began direct-seeding chestnuts in 2003 on a very small scale: six along the central trail on the left side and one in a newly cleared space near the trail on the right side. In successive years, as we had extra nuts to plant, we added more, a few to several at a time, often in planting holes where the previous chestnut failed to grow, died of drought or was killed by unidentified rodents. In 2008, we planted 65 in the large, new clearing on the right; two of those seedlings survive. In 2009, we replanted all but seven of the same holes; eight of these seedlings survive.  In 2010 we re-dug all the planting holes, removing encroaching roots and including a dose of poison below each planting place, and planted, as usual, inside short protection shelters covered with netting, also scattering a few moth balls (thought to deter varmints by scent) inside the cages around most shelters; two of those seedlings survive.  Raccoons pulled away all shelters and stole the chestnuts. In 2011 we transplanted several year-old seedlings from other sites, to be sure of having something growing here; most of these survive. Next we removed all the shelters, re-dug the area inside cages, pressed three chestnuts into the prepared soil, covered with an inch of soil, then stomped the planting places to pack the soil and make it look like nothing had been planted; for good measure we scattered chili powder before setting the cages back in place to make small nursery beds; all these chestnuts grew and 25 survive here (the rest we transplanted in other plots). This was a big surprise, because these chestnuts had been harvested before they were completely filled out, to save the graft on which they grew from breaking when it was weighed down, like a fishing pole with a big one on the line. After the 2012 dormancy period, we transplanted the smaller seedlings to individual cages, leaving the largest in place, and often we had to move its cage to center the chestnut. Nearly all these chestnuts and the transplants have survived.


In the empty cages on the left side, we have 19 planting places in which one transplanted seedling and seven from direct-seeding survive, mostly planted since 2007. Also surviving at Turkey Run are four large grafts. One with the help of imported pollen produced three nuts last fall; they are among those growing nearby. And one small graft struggles on, its resident voles periodically knocked back with poison.

Lessons Forest plots require much more work than can be imagined, so start small unless you have regular, reliable help. Always prune bark grafts by June. When doing battle with varmints, trickery may be most useful; also, never give up in a good site, except in the case of bears. 



I made 60 new whip grafts, mostly in March, sometimes grafting in the snow.  By early May, nine grafts were growing strongly, but they did not include the four individuals I most wished to succeed, because of the difficulty to reach them in late February or early March when we collect scions.  Since some good-looking scionwood from each remained, I cast aside deeply held prejudice and made eight bark grafts.  Six of these are growing strongly; they shall be pruned. The May freeze in Giles County killed one of last year’s grafts, and several others were killed by blight when soil washed away from the graft union during winter. At this time, 72 of my grafts survive; 15 of them bear nuts and five more have made their first catkins this year.


We treated all grafts smaller than six inches in diameter with Bayer Advanced insecticide in early April and none of them were attacked by ambrosia beetle which has been a problem in most research plots in past years. I have no doubt that this pest will remain in our neck of the woods because of large numbers of young native chestnuts released near many woodland plots.


    We thank the Mary Moody Northern Foundation and Virginia Tech for plot maintenance on Salt Pond Mountain.

Thanks always to John Buschmann for supporting ACCF research and plot maintenance in the Lesesne.

Many thanks to Carol Croy, Rick Gendreau, Kerrin Hester, Vicky & Eli Lewis , in addition to Jane & Jim Reilly, and most of the Collins family, for volunteer help at harvest.

Special thanks to Corry Shaffer and his father who removed chestnuts from burs with me one fine afternoon, my lucky day.


Walking up the central trail into the left Turkey Run plot early last May, as I paused near the first few cages to look at the big graft which made nuts last year, a large tom turkey erupted from bushes, not two yards away, and flew to the top of a tall oak on the bottom edge of the plot.  Behind the bush I discovered a large nest with 15 eggs, retreated, and did no more work there till June. We wish your chestnut work may be similarly rewarded by occasional, wild surprises.


Respectfully submitted,


Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech


Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, McEwen, TN


John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord College, WV


Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.


Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts




American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation

2012 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:


In 2011, we received 137 reports totaling 2,843 ACCF chestnuts surviving. So far this year we have received 10 reports of 230 ACCF chestnuts growing, although drought and other difficulties may be expected to diminish results from these early reports.

This past winter we cut many large chestnuts in the four research plots in which we harvest most of our seed. Most of these chestnuts were early intercrosses, their blight resistance no longer judged to be the best in a given breeding line, or else they were duplicates which were shading much younger chestnuts known or suspected to have superior blight resistance. Cutting some chestnuts improved the quality and temporarily decreased the quantity of seed to be expected in these plots. Thus, smaller numbers occasionally represent progress.

The June 29 wind storm (derecho) took down two bearing trees and also two large grafts. We had heavy losses in the Lesesne to Phytophthora and voles. Remaining under our care are 735 chestnuts grown from seed, about half of which are small seedlings, if not brand new this growing season, and so, also highly vulnerable to loss.



Our 2011 harvest was a bumper crop of the very best, from which we sent 3,070 seednuts to 189 growers in 30 states, D.C., Quebec and Italy, and planted the rest ourselves. Jane and Jim Reilly, our most outstanding cooperators to date, came from PA to help for two mornings at harvest. Taking turns on the six-foot ladder wielding the 14-foot extension pole pruner, they did the lions share of the hardest work and returned home with a few bags of burs, which they processed themselves; they then planted over 500.

We cannot promise anything near a similar number of seednuts to volunteers who may be able to help this coming fall, because we never know how many chestnuts we will harvest until the job is done and the chestnuts are out of the burs. We could not even make a reliable estimate by counting the number of swollen burs (if such a thing could be done), because swollen or not, many of them may contain just one, two or no chestnuts at all, instead of the usual three. Whenever there are frequent, heavy rains during the time when female flowers are receptive, pollination tends to be poor.

Volunteers to help at harvest should contact us via email at . We harvest from nine a.m. till noon on weekdays in the second half of September, and sometimes also in the first few days of October. Precise dates cannot be fixed until September, when we can better predict on which days help may be needed.

Harvest volunteers may take home (in their burs) a much more generous share of the chestnut harvest than the usual allotment sent to growers. We limit growers to 10 each, because getting chestnuts out of the bur is very hard on the hands. In years of surplus, we send extras to growers who have reported reliably and indicated that they could plant and care for more than 10.


I made 60 grafts, mostly in March; this was an even earlier spring than last year. Thirteen new grafts survive in six research plots. In five of these plots, my percentage of takes was well above if not at 20%, but the plots out in Giles County ruined my record. There we had two late killing freezes or frosts; I put paper bags over the tops of shelters in which direct-seeded chestnuts were growing and saved most of them. In the case of the grafts, which are already inside shelters covered by shade bags, I thought they might be OK. The only graft of 18 to survive, was one that was made on the unique sprout from its chestnut root; all the other grafts had additional stems which were exposed, so these grafted stocks may have been weakened by the cold shock to prevent success. Next spring, I plan to test this idea by cutting away all extra stems on each chestnut grafted. This will risk loss of some root systems, where a graft fails to grow, but these plots are in a former chestnut forest, containing many more native stocks than it is possible for me to graft.

Ambrosia beetle and blight at the union, where I had neglected to keep it covered with soil, took out three more older grafts. This leaves me with 66 grafts, among which 11 bear nuts.



This years tour is quite different from the usual. We did not plant the original plot, but took over maintenance when it was not reported by the people who had done the planting. This plot illustrates many things, the first being our reason for requiring the Cooperative Grower Agreement Form, to emphasize the long-term nature of a chestnut planting project and the need to retrieve information from each experimental planting. Unfortunately, most of the early plantings of ACCF chestnuts, in fact, the first ten years of distributions to cooperating growers, have been, for our information purposes, lost.

The growers of our early chestnut projects are not the only ones at fault: my seedling records for the early 90s are incomplete, with only the name and state of each grower, plus the number of seedlings and nursery code for the mother tree. At that time, whenever growers did not report, I deleted them completely from the database; it did not occur to me until much later that the name was the only clue I would have for the identity of the chestnuts. (These days, non-reporting or deceased growers are shifted into a separate inactive database of people who do not receive newsletters.)

The USDA-FS gave permission to a Radford church group to plant 20 American chestnut seedlings. Jesse, the technician who made the original butterfly garden and helped the group get started, may be able to give the year, but I am unwilling to send forestry folk on a paper chase. It was in the first or second year when tree shelters came on the market, when everyone was trying them out, so I guess the year was around 1993.

To enter the plot, you park by a forestry gate and walk about a quarter-mile on a mossy trail in deep shade up a very gentle slope where woodland wild flowers bloom throughout the spring, culminating in a June rhododendron show. March through May, tall rubber boots are necessary, unless your broad jump can span two feeder streams three or four yards in breadth; they are mostly dry beds the rest of the year.

The clearing at the top of the trail is about 200 yards, north to south, and 20 yards, east to west. The poor chestnuts get only an hour or two of direct sun at midday. This is not enough for American chestnut, which thrives in full and morning sun: without sufficient sun, they cannot grow at the normal rapid rate, and they cannot flower or bear nuts. Most important, shade breaks down blight resistance.

When the planting was made we were not aware of that last fact, nor did anyone know that tree shelters are unsuitable for raising American chestnut seedlings: the space inside the shelters is too narrow for the large leaves; this causes seedlings to grow deformed or spindly. Even worse, the damp enclosed space within the tubes makes an ideal incubator for the blight fungus. The children and their parents put up six-foot tree shelters here to protect their chestnuts.

After the project had gone unreported for a few years, I checked up on it myself, because it is just a half-mile from our house. Since it appeared abandoned, I adopted it, because I didnt want the children to return years later and find no chestnuts. First I removed all the shelters (cut them into 8 lengths to recycle for use protecting grafts or direct-seeded chestnuts) and installed a deer fence, made of rebar posts and 10# test fishing line, hung with bright flagging to ward off the deer. This fence needs mending nearly every time I check it; in such a woodland environment where the deer run wild it is an impractical and imperfect deterrent. A little at a time, we carried in wire protection cages.

The Forest Service had planted autumn olive which is invasive, no longer recommended. A combination of loppers and poison contain it, barely. Eight of the original chestnut planting survive, although all but one are scrawny specimens even though perhaps twenty years old. One, which now gets much more sun has grown over 24 feet tall; its first blight canker shows a swollen, blight-resistant reaction. Over the years 2003 through 2010, I have planted by direct-seeding many chestnuts with better expectations than the original ones planted; 20 of these survive, but most are very small. This plot will not produce nuts until a storm, insects or woodcutters take down more of the shading oaks to the east. We have seen such things happen, so we continue to maintain this plot in hopes that one day its chestnuts may be released.


AMBROSIA BEETLE and perhaps other pests, as well:

Wherever we had ambrosia beetle damage last year, we sprayed all grafts, once a week or after each rain with permethrin, beginning in March instead of April, because of the early spring weather. Rain washes away the spray, and the weekly duty is quite a chore when you have so many places to cover. Much later in the spring we learned about Bayer Advanced, a rather expensive systemic treatment which is supposed to last for 12 months and known to kill many pests, among them, gypsy moth and emerald ash borers, so we switched to this for a trial against ambrosia beetle. It was somewhat inclusive, only because we had already used permethrin and started the treatment too late; however, we had no ambrosia beetle damage in any of the grafts treated with Bayer Advanced, so we shall use this product again, depending on the weather, in April or March, 2013, on all grafts and hope to report a perfect result next year. This chemical is mixed in a gallon of water, its strength calculated according to the diameter of the stem to be treated. If it works, it would be a most convenient solution.

Where gall wasp was a big problem last year, we had virtually none this year, although we spotted two Chinese chestnuts in town which were heavily infested with this pest. We did find a few deformed galls in the Martin American Chestnut Planting, and on one branch of a big graft in our yard, pinched them off and destroyed them.

In the ongoing war against voles, we ran out of Prozap at the same time as the stores supplier, so we have been trying an organic product, Plantskydd , which is advertised to deter rabbits and other small critters for up to a year. This sounds too good to be true, but nevertheless we have been sprinkling it inside cages or down the holes, as we discover new tunnels. Next year we may try it exclusively in one plot, for a controlled experiment.



Special thanks to Mark Miller and his crew from the USDAFS Blacksburg Ranger Station for cutting down quite a few very large trees, mostly tulip poplars, which used to shade the first two or three rows of chestnuts in the Hotine plot and probably were also responsible for delaying nut production on some large mature chestnuts.

We thank the Mary Moody Northern Foundation and Virginia Tech for plot maintenance on Salt Pond Mountain.

Thanks again to John Buschmann for supporting ACCF research and plot maintenance in the Lesesne.

Many thanks to Rick Gendreau, Carol Croy, Kyle Boardman,Vicky & Eli Lewis, in addition to Jane & Jim Reilly, for volunteer help at harvest last fall. Kyle and Eli also set up a bat house, about 10 feet up a tree, which grows just above a small chestnut plot near a watering pond, a likely place for bats to live and help control insects.


At this time of year, many growers have to water new seedlings or risk losing a sizable investment in chestnut work. This duty done, on the way home, I listen to Pavarotti; the beautiful music he made lasts forever. I have found it to be a perfect accompaniment to my chestnut thoughts and plans, while driving to and from the chestnut plots: an inspiration going, followed by a reward for the return trip. The best aria on this, my best CD, ends with the words, di dolore morore, expressing what will happen if you forget to water your seedlings through the drought. Our chestnuts cannot last forever. May some of them last at least 200 years; may their progeny last forever!

We look forward to reading your reports and thank you for your work.


Respectfully submitted,


Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech


Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, McEwen, TN


John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord College, WV


Joyce G. Foster, Treasurer, Research Biochemist, Beaver, WV.


Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts



American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

2011 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:



So far we have six growers reporting 108 all-American chestnuts growing. Last fall and winter, I planted 282 chestnuts; in spite of very good germination only 173 remain for me to water through the drought. We shall never again plant such a large number in one year. We had a chance to open up three new forest plots, and we went for it. Three or four dozen, on which the autopsy has not yet been done, died from either drought or voles and many more to other above- and below-ground varmints. Altogether, 777 of my chestnuts planted since 1985 survive.



Since many states have recently enacted quarantine or other restrictive laws against imports of chestnuts from those states in which gall wasp has been identified, we can no longer send scions to cooperating grafters.  You can still continue improving your chestnut groves by collecting scions from the best-looking among your chestnuts with swollen blight cankers and grafting them on the new shoots from chestnuts killed by the blight. This is what we have been doing all along. This spring I made 70 grafts of which 14 are growing.  Following heavy losses to ambrosia beetle this spring, altogether 53 of my grafts since 1990 survive.



We named it for my parents; Hotine is my family name. Located in the National Forest about 300 yards downhill from our back yard, the half acre was cleared by a Forest Service crew in the winter of 2002-03, after Ed Leonard, USDAFS silviculturist, obtained special permission for the research plot.

Site selection was deliberate: it is east facing (for morning sun exposure), on a cove-slope, two-thirds of the way down the mountain (to avoid frost pockets), where there used to be a field in which tulip poplars grew 100 feet tall in 30 years, promising great growth potential. Gary wanted the soil disturbed as little as possible, so the stumps were left in place and killed by applying a high nitrogen fertilizer. In the upper half of this clearing we laid out 10 rows, about eight feet apart because the slope is so steep, perhaps 50 degrees, and drove stakes to mark planting places, from six to 10 per row, the spacing dictated by the stumps. Laying branches across the slope, leveling places for the cages, removing roots and rocks to make the planting holes and making the protection cages completed the heavy work, well before planting time.

We accepted plenty of volunteer help from our children and grandchildren and especially from Douglas Buege, who carried most of the wire (enough rolls of 5 x 50 foot weldwire to make 94 cages) down to the site that summer, when he was doing the research for his book about American chestnuts, “If a Tree Falls”. He expressed concern that the steep site could be prone to erosion, but this has not been a problem. The grasses and clover we planted, along with volunteer wildflowers and berries, rapidly covered the bare soil.

At the time when we made the application for a clearing, we proposed planting the next generation of the Miles x Ruth family there. However, that year Gary had discouraging results when rating the cankers among what were then the best representatives in that line. This is one of the big challenges in resistance breeding: from one year to the next, over the winter, blight cankers may completely change their appearance, altering the resistance rating from good to bad or sometimes, vise versa. This is why Gary rates cankers annually and why we cull individuals whole blight resistance does not hold up for at least 10 years. Thus Gary decided that we should start a new family here, using the mother tree with highest rated blight resistance and longest blight control.

We had observed, among all our chestnuts, this one was the last to go into dormancy, and we considered this extra week or two in growth might bestow an advantage in disease resistance. Thinking along these lines, we decided to use as father tree, the first chestnut to emerge from dormancy, which is a week to 10 days ahead of all the others, and this way, perhaps produce some progeny that combined the first in and last out feature to further extend the growing season. This was my idea, which may yet turn out to be bogus, but since I was doing the pollination in 2003, I decided to try it.

So far, the Hotine plot has been mostly a place for good luck. Starting with ready agreement from the community for the cut and major help from the USDAFS, next thing we received the grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation which paid for site preparation, protection cages and maintenance for the first three years.

The only bad luck was with the first controlled pollination. If you put up 50 bags, enclosing 150 flowers, return three times to paint pollen on each flower at intervals over a 10 day period, you may harvest a number of chestnuts anywhere between zero and 450. The pollen may be immature or too old, and the flowers generally are not all receptive on the same day.  My 2003 pollination was a flop:  it produced just seven viable chestnuts. I planted them in the top two rows, along with some volunteer seedlings which I planned to use for grafting stocks.

The following year I planted 35 more of this intercross.   In 2005, deciding it was a difficult cross to make and maybe we had enough of  these, we began to plant nuts from the same mother tree, using different father trees; next we used different mother trees with the original mother as the father.  Finally in 2007, we planted an extra column of open-pollinated chestnuts in the Miles X Ruth line, once again back in favor. This way we may be able to compare their blight resistance to the newer breeding lines on this site.

Now we have 94 seedlings and four grafts growing. The grafts are of parent trees and also, one new first generation selection. In general, the first two or three seedlings in each row grow very slowly or not at all, while the rest make very good to exceptional growth. The cause was a planting mistake: we planted too close to several 100-foot tall poplars on the south side which shade the nearby seedlings too soon in the day while the poplar root systems keep growing back into the chestnut planting holes.  Five of these tiny seedlings finally died.  The survivors in the first two rows are four, each at one foot tall; four, at two feet tall, and one at seven feet; however, the last is in an upper row not crowded by the big poplars. Normal chestnuts of the same age growing in the rest of the rows are 12 to 14 feet tall.

You may remember our discovery last year at the Airport plot where two chestnuts had no gall wasp damage, while all the others had a major infestation. Those two possibly gall wasp resistant chestnuts were parents of the 42 nuts we planted in 2003 and 2004.  Several of them are over 20 feet tall and many more are over ten feet, so we anticipated an early nut crop this summer. As it turns out, we might get a few, but not enough to share: only one chestnut made any flowers so I tied bunches of catkins on the tips of branches to entice bees to pollinate these flowers.



We suffered a major gall wasp infestation in our yard chestnuts this May, dealt with by cutting out two grafts and 10 seedlings, all well over ten feet tall, thus it was the only way to get rid of the problem. We also cut the top and many upper branches out of the Pie chestnut in front of our dining room window, so it is not as beautiful as it used to be. The grafts are finished, but the seedlings can start again clean, and some of them have new sprouts already six feet tall.  We found and destroyed a small number of galls at the Airport plot, not nearly as many as last year. A sprout from one Miles and one Ruth (cut down last year at the Airport) are growing tall, and three of the others we have grafted with newer selections.  We also found a discouraging number of galls in the Martin American Chestnut Planting, picked them out by hand, stuffed into plastic bags to the dump.  I read in the Nutshell (NNGA 101st annual report) that the natural predators of gall wasp develop along with them inside the galls, but choose not to take the chance that these predators may have reached our area.



This pest caused extensive damage and some big losses. Arthur Frisbee, from North Carolina warned years ago that this beetle, said to attack only injured trees, thinks grafts are injured trees. In a forest plot out in Giles County, we had six grafts killed by ambrosia beetle. When you cut a graft at the base, you are usually cutting into the stock, but there is a small chance that a piece of the graft, covered with soil, may send up a new sprout; this does not usually happen.

In addition, we had infestations on ten healthy seedlings at Mountain Lake and in the Hotine plot as well as a few grafts at the Airport and Mountain Lake. We cut all seedlings and heavily infested grafts in one-foot segments, to be able to examine them for the telltale pinholes, and put all infested wood in triple plastic bags, to the dump.  Again, we chose the strongest  new shoots and cut out the others. Some of these new shoots are also six feet tall.

On two very large grafts, we found only a few pinholes near the base and tried to save them with applications of permethrin, once a week or after each rain. We saved one.

In every plot where this pest made an appearance this year, we shall have to spray all grafts and small seedlings from the base to five feet up, beginning in April 2012 to prevent further losses of grafts and time.



Over the years, we have received many requests to share the hypovirulent strains of the blight fungus with which we inoculate the first cankers on chestnuts in our breeding program that demonstrate blight resistance.  We are not permitted to share them because they are under a special USDA license for use in research under Gary’s direct supervision.



Thanks again to John Buschmann for supporting ACCF research and plot maintenance in the Lesesne.

Thanks to Matthew, Hannah, Grace & Luke Griffin for folding, applying stamps & labels, stuffing & sealing envelopes to get out last summer’s newsletter.

Many thanks for harvest help from Lise & Harry Cooper, Carol Croy, Rick Gendreau, and Vicky & Eli Lewis. If you wish to volunteer for the 2011 harvest, please e-mail me at and suggest a week day after September 15, when you may be able to help.

More thanks to Lise & Harry Cooper, for helping with replanting at Turkey Run. Special thanks to Karl Cooper for cutting many trees at Turkey Run to put more sun on a few small seedlings and make room for 12 more planting places.


In future newsletters, the research plots on our virtual tour will be quite different: the rest are not laid out on a grid, like an orchard enclosed within the forest, but are planted or grafted at random in groves as the forest grows.  We now have many more chestnut research plots than there are days in the week. So we must limit ourselves to maintenance, improvement, and perhaps, expansion in a few plots.

But that was not our dream. We have imagined all-American chestnuts growing in each new forest opening on ideal sites in the whole eastern forest formerly occupied by American chestnut.  We will need lots of help to accomplish this, and we believe seasoned chestnut growers will be most able to create successful forest projects.

Some of you are raising a few or several yard chestnuts, some are making large orchards and others are making forest groves. If you are in the first category above and have run out of yard space, we urge you to consider branching out and putting your experience growing chestnuts to use in a forest setting on public lands. A few of our cooperators are already doing this; we need many more to join them. State and Federal foresters make very good cooperators; they welcome volunteer forest improvement projects and help with site selection.

When you work near a forest service road, the same pickups, motor cycles and SUVs, carry woodcutters, hikers, campers or hunters past you. One will stop to ask what you are planting. “American chestnuts” you say, and often you have a new friend. After a few years on the job, most of the passersby, as well as nearby cabin dwellers wave and many express thanks for your work.  It is the best job in the world.

We look forward to reading your reports and thank you for your work.

Respectfully submitted,


Lucille Griffin, Executive Director


Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Professor Emeritus Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech


Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, McEwen, TN


John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord College, WV


William Pilkington, Treasurer,  Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV


Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts




American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation

2010 Newsletter

 Forest Service Road 708, Newport, Virginia 24128

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

Without a computer for six weeks, I may have lost many e-mails. Please resubmit your unanswered comments and questions with your Annual Report and chestnut request.


This year I sent no scion wood to cooperators. I was just too busy. The record snowfall closed forest roads and off-road paths, none of which are plowed, thus most research plots could not be reached until March 11. This made it impossible to do planting and grafting preparations a little at a time, as usual, through the months of January and February. All that work was squeezed into two weeks. Of 50 grafts I made, 12 are growing, improving five different plots.


Our most senior cooperators and grafters are familiar with this plot which we reclaimed in 2000, from a 1976 ACCF-Virginia Tech planting of Dietz chestnuts, like those in the original Lesesne plantation. But here we had only 15 rows of 10 each, on 10-foot centers, and Garys tests, found no blight resistant chestnuts. So the plot was abandoned and soon overgrown in poison ivy, bittersweet, autumn olive, multiflora rose, Virginia creeper and blackberries.

In 1999 the Virginia Tech Grounds crew cut the first five rows near ground level, to make a wonderfully compact and level grafting plot, easily accessible off-road (except only in winter 2010, when two-foot drifts covered the trail through the hay fields.) Horticulture students helped us clear the vines and briars and spread wood chips in the other ten rows. The idea was to improve the first five rows by grafting blight resistant chestnuts, while leaving the other 10 rows to grow wild, as they do in forest clearings and edges, to demonstrate the difference, with blight resistant American chestnuts growing beside American chestnuts that have no blight resistance.

Many trees had already been lost in the no-resistance rows, and those remaining were multi-stemmed, with many dead trunks of increasingly larger sizes. Continuous cycles of blight and death produces hypovirulence in the blight fungus. The combination of hypovirulence with the ever-increasing root systems permitted these chestnuts to make trunks up to eight inches in diameter before the blight killed them. They gave large annual nut crops which we sent out to nut grafters or as gifts to be eaten, for as long as we were able to gather this harvest. Not many years passed before all the invasive species had returned and once again we abandoned these ten rows. It was too much work, at the bottom of a very long list. We let the animals have those chestnuts.

Meanwhile, the five managed rows became a great asset to our breeding program. Miles and Ruth, growing in the steeply sloping Martin American Chestnut Planting up on Salt Pond Mountain, first selections from our first generation of breeding, were making flowers high in the crown, out of reach. We grafted their scions alternately, in the first two rows, and about 10 grew very rapidly in the rich soil, in full sun. By 2002, using low branches we made second-generation intercrosses (planted in the Lesesne) and we have been sending their open-pollinated chestnuts all these years to our cooperators.

Each spring I used to hold grafting clinics here by appointment. We stopped this practice because each clinic took up a morning in prime grafting time and often it happened to fall on the finest day for grafting: no wind, high humidity, temperature between 55 and 60 F, overcast skies. On such a day, I would imagine that I could have made seven grafts, all of which might have succeeded. I could not dismiss that dream. (If you are determined to learn how to graft, you can do it by reading the instructions on our Web site and keeping scrupulous notes of your work, so that you are able to learn from most of your mistakes, as John Elkins, Ed Greenwell and I have done.)

You may better understand how I have become a stingy grafting cooperator, if you consider that each graft requires a minimum of one-half hour to make and has at best a 20% chance of success. (These figures are for whip-grafting in the field; I have come to consider other grafts to be a waste of my time.) Also, new grafts require weekly inspection, to be sure that the union is always covered with soil.  Thus, in ten years of grafting, we do not have a single uninterrupted row of five grafts in this plot (the elusive Bingo!). At the end of last summer, we had 23 grafts.  Two grafts succeeded this spring, so now we have 16: blight below the exposed union killed one, and Ambrosia beetle had killed another before I noticed its telltale pinholes. Then we paid a tree service to cut away the remaining Miles and Ruth grafts (several were a foot in diameter) in late April, after I had discovered the plot was infested with gall wasp.

This is our first experience with gall wasp. We must thank Giorgio Maresi who had recently sent excellent pictures of the deformed leaves, curled up around pinkish galls. While checking my grafts, one of these leaves literally hit me in the eye. Instead of the planned hour, I spent half the day cutting infested leaves and stuffing them into plastic bags; we returned daily to the same work for two weeks. Galls in the tops of Miles and Ruth were out of reach, and since we are now selecting from the next generation in this breeding line, we decided to destroy those big grafts. (Miles and Ruth survive in two other plots.) However, this was just the tip of the infestation: it appears to have entered via the chestnuts abandoned in the adjacent overgrown ten rows. We cut paths to these chestnuts so the contractor could cut all of them. There were poison ivy and bittersweet vines up to three inches in diameter. We poisoned the chestnuts and vines.

The Airport plot is subject to extremely high gusts of wind. We must keep all grafts here staked for at least two years, while elsewhere, we usually remove the support stakes at the beginning of the second growing season. One week after the Miles and Ruth grafts had been removed, high winds flattened to the ground a 15-foot graft and left two larger, newly exposed grafts permanently listing to the east. The union on the downed graft was intact, so it lived several weeks before dying. What appeared at first to be the destruction of ten years work has yielded significant benefits. From now on the Airport plot is free from inferior pollen. The surviving grafts represent at least nine original sources of  blight resistance, and possibly 10, because one graft is of a volunteer which may bring an additional source of blight resistance  into the mix.  Eleven of the grafts are original sources; three, including the volunteer, are first-generation intercrosses; and two are second-generation intercrosses with some of their parent trees present in duplicate in this plot. All were selected for blight resistance. Thus, future Airport harvests should produce a higher percentage of chestnuts inheriting blight resistance.

That is the smaller advance. The biggest deal we gleaned from careful observation. On one individual, represented by two grafts, a large 10-year old and a three-year old, both surrounded by chestnuts infested with the gall wasp, we were unable to find any galls. On another unrelated chestnut, also represented by two grafts, we found just a few galls. This suggests, the first may be highly resistant to gall wasp, and the second, may also be resistant to this pest. It just so happens that we made the first intercross between these two individuals in 2002, and they may begin bearing nuts within a year or two. We shall send as many of these nuts as possible to southern growers, where gall wasp is most troublesome.


lay their eggs in the buds on the new growth of that year, the very same twigs from which we collect scion wood. (Since I collect most of our scion wood at the Airport, it is after all quite lucky that I sent none to cooperators this past winter.) The wasps lay eggs over a three week period. Spraying is not effective because it cannot penetrate the galls, but must hit the flying insects, which may hatch out over a period of a month or more. For the time being, our April infestation appears to be under control, but we must continue to be vigilant each spring, because Chinese chestnuts grow within a half-mile of the Airport.


usually begins when seedlings are seven to 10 years old; the lower number applies in very rich sites in full sun. The first year, often the chestnut makes only male catkins; the second year, it usually makes some female flowers also; and thereafter, if it has a pollinator, the tree may flower in abundance and produce regular nut crops. The female flowers usually show up about ten days after the catkins.

The pollinator is sometimes a problem, because American chestnuts bloom at various times. For instance, our earliest chestnut blooms a week before Chinese chestnuts, so that most years it can produce nuts only by controlled pollination, using pollen that was stored in the freezer from the previous year. This year we pollinated that chestnut on June 5. At the other end of the spectrum, our latest bloomer usually has no receptive female flowers till the second week in July, when all other male pollen has dropped; we pollinated it on July 10, using pollen collected on another chestnut in mid-June. Most American chestnuts bloom during the weeks in between these two extremes.

Blooming time may be altered by a freeze or heavy frost in late April or May. Chestnuts that have bloomed only once or twice, may make no flowers in such a year. While those regularly bearing chestnuts which usually bloom early or in the middle range of flowering time, may bloom as much as two weeks later than usual. In one forest plot, this Mays freeze hit a graft of our earliest chestnut, causing its catkins to be available for the first time when a much later chestnut graft came into bloom.

Variety in blooming time is expressed among the progeny of each chestnut, each generation. This characteristic favors survival by assisting regeneration. Very heavy rains falling when female flowers are receptive can prevent pollination, but because of the various flowering schedules, this is not likely to affect all the chestnuts in a stand.


As of October 13, 116 cooperators have reported 2,397 surviving all-American chestnuts. We shall add to these numbers your as reports come in. We have 636 chestnuts I planted in the Virginia research plots. A late freeze hit most of the newly emerging seedlings in two plots; all but a few of them recovered and put out new shoots. However, the setback in root development left them highly vulnerable to June drought, which killed half of this years seedlings in the Lesesne before we were able to water. Drought conditions also lead to more vole attacks, thus three more three-foot tall chestnuts are dead, their tap roots eaten. We water only the chestnuts which are not yet two feet tall. The water often must be carried uphill for a distance of 150 yards, reminding us that it is never a bad idea to limit annual planting to 10 chestnuts. On the bright side, abundant spring rains once again resulted in record growth on the larger trees in most plots. By early July, many had new growth exceeding six feet, and in those plots where the freeze did not hit, some new seedlings were already two feet tall.

Thanks again to John Buschmann for supporting ACCF research and plot maintenance in the Lesesne.

Many thanks for harvest help from Lise & Harry Cooper, Carol Croy, Brian Hartnett, Vicky & Eli Lewis, Joe Norberg, and Albert Ward.  If you wish to volunteer for the 2010 harvest, please e-mail me at and suggest a week day after September 15, when you may be able to help.

More thanks to Lise, Jenny, Lizzie & Harry Cooper, Vicky & Eli Lewis for helping install bat houses in those forest research plots which are within a half-mile of a water source. Bats eat thousands of insects per day. This is an experiment to see if they may help control ambrosia beetle, gypsy moth and/or gall wasp.

Yet more thanks, to Jenny & Lizzie Cooper at UNC Asheville & Raleigh, for giving up two days of their spring break to make protection cages and plant chestnuts.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you for reporting.

Respectfully submitted,

 Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors
Gary Griffin, President, Professor Emeritus Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech

Ed Greenwell, Vice President & Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, McEwen, TN

John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus Chemistry, Concord College, WV

William Pilkington, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV

Dave McCurdy, Director & Nursery Superintendent Emeritus, Raleigh, NC

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation

2009 Newsletter

Send your report via or to

Forest Service Road 708, Newport, Virginia 24128

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

This year we take you on a virtual tour of the Martin American Chestnut Planting on Salt Pond Mountain, Virginia, at 3,500 feet elevation. Gary Griffin and John Elkins made the original planting in 1976 on land given to Virginia Tech by Ruth and Miles Horton for American chestnut research and dedicated to the memory of Miss Flossie Martin, a biology teacher who awakened in Miles a lifelong interest in science.

Gary and John laid out the planting holes with 10 foot spacing: 13 rows of nine and one row of six. They planted one-year- old all-American first-generation intercross seedlings, representing four of the parent trees which at that time had passed blight resistance tests: Floyd, Gault, MacDaniels and Weekley. Among these intercrosses they also planted, for reference purposes, open-pollinated chestnuts of two kinds: Wisconsin seedlings from outside the range of the blight fungus and Pease 16 seedlings from West Virginia. They planted at least one of each open-pollinated variety per row.

The planting site slopes steeply toward the southwest with woods on the other three sides. The clearing was made by the previous owners to grow feed corn. After the limestone-based soil had been played out, it became a hay field. This plot was planted before Gary had made his extensive forest ecology studies, so we did not realize that we were creating a worst-case scenario site: not the preferred north to eastern exposure, but open to severe winter stress and late freezes in spring, the wrong soil type, not acid and not well-drained in spite of the slope, and the upper layer of soil was seriously depleted, leaving available fertility well below the surface.

It was a struggle to get them established. At first, we used compost and newspaper mulch to improve the soil, and for many springs and summers we carried water to each seedling. For years they grew very poorly, at less than half the normal rate, until the taproots finally reached deep below the surface soil and into more fertile ground. Then they took off. In 1988, with 78 of the original 117 surviving, Gary and John inoculated all chestnuts over 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) with a killing strain of the blight fungus to test for blight resistance. The Wisconsin trees died within a month or two; the Pease did a little better. Gary and John observed canker growth over a two-year period, and judged three of the intercrosses to have resistance equal to or better than the parent trees.

John Elkins made some second-generation intercrosses and planted 12 of the seedlings to fill spaces in the rows in 1993. Over the last eight years, we have filled most of the other spaces by direct-seeding chestnuts. In 2000 and 2004, we planted controlled, first-generation intercrosses representing three more parent trees. In 2005 through 2008 we planted open- pollinated chestnuts from a plot which contains only blight resistant chestnuts and represents five original sources of blight resistance. These nuts are the same as those we have been sending to growers in recent years; most of them may be second or third-generation natural intercrosses.

Walking through the Martin American Chestnut Planting today, you see seven chestnuts over 30 feet tall, with the tallest at about 44 feet, six chestnuts over 20 feet tall, and another six over 10 feet tall; these are original survivors, 1993 seedlings, several of my grafts which date from 1995, and a few are seedlings from nuts where the planting spot was much improved on the second try. Thirty-four more chestnuts, ranging between 9 feet and 6 inches tall, are mostly from direct-seeded nuts; one is a new graft this year. You will also see many more chestnuts, between 10 and two inches in diameter have been cut at the base and are making stump sprouts; these are for future grafting opportunities. Every chestnut smaller than 30 feet tall is enclosed in a wire cage, because the trees are a target for deer rubs which easily strip the smooth bark, and of course, deer eat unprotected sprouts.

You probably would expect to find American chestnuts that are 25 to 30 years old to be much taller than 44 feet, and you would be correct. Leaving aside their slow start, the relatively small stature of the older chestnut stems in this planting is mostly due to cutting; many are second or third shoots to emerge when the previous trunk was cut at the base because it was seriously disfigured or had the top killed by blight.

A new shoot on an established root system has a greatly improved chance to reach a larger size before its first blight attack. Therefore, because of the severity of conditions on this site, we have given many of the original chestnuts two or three chances to make a better blight resistance test score. However, the first selections are still the best, so this summer we hired a tree service to cut at ground level 52 trees that did not pass inspection. This leaves the orchard with only blight-resistant chestnuts able to produce pollen and nuts. It also greatly increased the sunlight available to stimulate more rapid growth on the smaller chestnuts and for next year’s grafts.

This year’s Martin American open-pollinated nuts will represent various combinations among six original parents (Floyd, Gault, MacDaniels, Thompson, Nathan Pease, and Ragged Mt.) in first-, second- or third-generation natural intercrosses. Six additional original sources of blight resistance are represented in the seedlings and grafts which will flower here in the near future.

In addition to the harsh environment and continuous blight infections, this site has weathered two serious insect problems. The ambrosia beetle attacked in 2006 and again in 2008, both times killing or setting back by a few years each, from two to four of our grafts. So we must keep a close lookout each March for the telltale pinholes on the lower half of stems smaller than 3 inches DBH and be prepared to spray all trunks of that size with Permethrin. A much bigger threat by gypsy moth was stopped this May by a large countywide spraying effort followed by almost two months of above-normal rains which appear to have interrupted reproduction of the pest.

The stress factors on this site are not completely unrelieved: because of the poor upper soil, weeds do not seriously compete with the young seedlings, and because the soil is very compact, voles have not created the general nuisance we battle in the richer and well-drained forest sites. About five years ago, the Mary Moody Northern Foundation purchased a large block of mountain land which includes the Martin American Chestnut Planting and three smaller related chestnut plots.  This foundation is deeply concerned in environmental projects that engage the local public, in other words, exactly our kind of folks; they make our work easier by keeping the plots mown.


Poor germination is most often a result of improper storage and can be avoided by planting chestnut seed when it arrives. In the north, however, where heavy snow covers the ground for a month or so, the chestnuts may be better off stored as follows: put the seednuts in a mixture of 50/50 sand and peat moss, very slightly damp, inside a plastic peanut butter jar, in which several small holes have been drilled for air exchange; then bury the jar under about 4 inches of soil inside your first planting hole, well-marked with flagging. Plant the seed by February.

Poor transplant success is common for American chestnuts because the long taproot is easily injured; avoid this problem by direct-seeding the nuts in their chosen site as described in the handout which accompanies the seed.

Yellow or yellow-green foliage that is smaller than normal indicates poor seedling health. In or near the Piedmont and elsewhere in the South where the soil is not well drained, a root rot may be the problem. Watering does not improve the appearance of root rot victims. The seedling dies all at once. For complete information, look up Phytophthora in past newsletters, archived in descending order, below.

Yellowish, unhealthy foliage may also indicate that voles are attacking the root system; this is common in rich, well-drained woodland soils, new clearcuts and old orchards. Probe inside cages with a stick. Wherever it sinks suddenly apply a vole poison in the tunnel. Last year’s trial of Molemax and other smelly deterrents failed; poison is necessary for vole control. Voles kill chestnuts is surely as a root rot.

Tree shelters of all descriptions, vented or not, are unsuitable for protecting American chestnut seedlings. The only exception to this rule is the 8-inch tall, short shelter which we sink 3 inches into the soil in the middle of each wire cage for first-season protection of direct-seeded chestnuts. The taller shelters are too small in diameter to accommodate healthy chestnut leaf and stem growth; they are also very efficient blight incubators, and, just like a dense weed growth inside protection cages, they hide the first signs of blight, which often occur at the base and rapidly kill seedlings smaller than an inch in diameter.

Basal cankers, if detected early, may be controlled by making a mud pack to cover the canker with moist soil. This can give the  seedling another chance to reach 1.5 inches in diameter, the minimum size for blight resistance expression to be useful.


Our directors have discussed the many pros and cons of seedling distribution, and have decided to discontinue it. Henceforth we shall distribute only seednuts. This should decrease my data entry duties by half, leaving more time to spend in the research plots.

If you have already signed a copy of the enclosed agreement and your information is unchanged, please write, NO CHANGE boldly across that side, and fill in your nut request. If you have already reported, please write REPORTED ONLINE boldly on the reverse side, and fill in your member number from the envelope label. This will save more office time, thanks very much. Everyone with a Grower Agreement and current Report on file may order 10 chestnut seeds

Most of the 2009 chestnuts we will be sending to growers in late October will come from the two plots which contain only blight-resistant chestnuts, and the chestnuts collected in other plots will come from blight-resistant mother trees, the ones which are nearest to the best pollen sources.  Nevertheless, blight resistance may not be regularly inherited among the progeny. We still rely on annual reports from you to learn how many and what percentage of these nuts express blight resistance.


This year we guess the harvest may begin around September 16 on the early trees; therefore, help will probably be needed most the week of September 21, and possibly also the first half of the following week. To help out, please e-mail Lucille at (my new address), mention the date when you plan to come, and I will get back to you. We harvest in the morning, usually beginning at nine. Harvest helpers may request additional chestnuts if they bring their own collection bag and are prepared to take chestnuts in the burs to store and process at home.


 The total American chestnut seedlings and nuts from the 2008 harvest which were planted by our associates and cooperating growers this past winter and spring was 2,846.

 The total American chestnuts surviving in Virginia research plots, not including the chestnuts cut back at ground level for grafting stock, is 483 grown from seedlings and seednuts, of which 66 are new this year, and 80 grafts. As of October 22, we have received reports from 133 growers of 3,415 chestnuts surviving in their ACCF plots.


Many thanks to UNC freshmen, Elizabeth Cooper and Caroline Robinson, who volunteered two days of their fall break to make a new chestnut research plot. They constructed 40 wire cages, drove stakes and broke new, difficult ground to dig 40 18-inch holes; the second day, they worked in a driving rain to complete the job. We planted there by direct-seeding 36 chestnuts representing the next step up in our blight-resistance breeding program. Twenty-nine of these seedlings are growing well.

Thanks again, to Carol Croy, Virginia Shepherd and George Richardson who helped us to harvest the chestnuts we sent to growers in 2008.

 More thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation which has continued generous support of our work.

Whenever we plant a nut or make a graft, we are committed to defending that chestnut like a mother hen, her chicks. Until it is big enough to express blight resistance (1.5 inches DBH), we give every benefit of protection and assistance, sometimes including second and third chances to demonstrate a better reaction to blight infection. But science must trump sentiment or there could be no progress in blight-resistance breeding.

In your own American chestnut project, you may elect to follow the same plan of continuous improvement for blight resistance, and you will have at least 20 years, perhaps 30 years, head start, as compared to where we began in the 1970’s. Or you may have a different goal, such as adding American chestnuts for their mast crop, to support more game on your lands. In this case, you still must defend the young chestnuts till they develop robust root systems, so that stems killed by blight can be rapidly replaced by new stems and the nut crop may be dependable, even though nut-bearing individuals within the planting may vary from year to year. Such a goal does not require cutting out any of your chestnuts, so it may be achieved within 10 to 12 years if the site is rich and the chestnuts are kept in full sun.

The nut-crop plan is flawed only if you have extensive managed woodlands and hope that nuts from your original stand may seed future clearings as more space becomes available. In this case, your seednuts would be inferior to those produced in a chestnut planting that has been managed like a research plot, for continuous improvement of blight resistance.

Of course, the choice is yours. We thank you again for your donations, and look forward to your annual reports.

 Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech

Dave McCurdy, Vice-president, retired Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, Raleigh, NC

John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord College, WV 

William Pilkington, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV

Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, McEwen, TN

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation
 2008 Newsletter
Send your report via our Online Report Form
  or to
Forest Service Road 708,  Newport, Virginia  24128

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

In special thanks to the many volunteers who have helped us reclaim the Lesesne research plot, we feature a virtual tour.  

The Lesesne is surrounded by state forest lands of the same name which were donated by the DuPont family to the Virginia Dept of Forestry (VDF) for American chestnut research.  Al Dietz, cooperating with the VDF, planted here in 1969, on a gentle south-facing slope at the foot of the Blue Ridge in deep fertile loam soils.  His original planting was about 10 acres, divided into three squares with 40 rows and columns in each square and the chestnuts planted on 10 foot centers.  These chestnuts had been exposed to ionizing radiation in an experiment aiming to induce mutations favorable to blight resistance.

Over the years, nearly all of Al's chestnuts have died from blight, and then from deer browsing the new shoots and from intense competition of other trees when state funds for maintenance were cut.  With the exception of the roadways leading up to and between the squares and the western edge of the middle square the planting disappeared in a tangle of vines and other trees.

The western edge was saved because there in 1980, Bruce Given and John Elkins of our informal American chestnut research group had worked with Tom Dierauf   (VDF)  to graft large survivors into the stocks of the blight-killed chestnuts.  In 1982 and '83, the first blight cankers on the grafts were  inoculated with a mixture of hypovirulet (weak) strains of the blight fungus obtained from Jack Elliston in Connecticut.  Research conducted by Virginia Tech graduate students, supported by the ACCF has shown some of these hypovirulent strains have spread, over the past 26 years, throughout the grafted trees.  These grafts inspired me to add to the collection.

My scope was quite limited until John Buschmann approached the VDF to enlarge our edge by clearing an acre, or the first 24 columns on the west side.  Then, in 2002, a National Wild Turkey Federation grant made it possible for us to clear and plant 5 rows of second-generation all-Americans (Ruth x Miles) along the downhill, southeast side.  The following winter, once again the VDF pitched in to clear the rest of the square, making planting room in which we have established several additional breeding lines by direct-seeding nuts beginning in 2003; they are first- and second-generation intercrosses among six different parent trees.

In each case, before clearing, we flagged all the chestnut stems to be saved for resistance testing; most failed the tests.  On the western side we left many failed chestnuts to witness the continuous cycles of death by blight followed by regeneration via root sprouts; we use the others for grafting stock.

Mainly I graft the parent trees whose progeny we have been planting here, but also, some related chestnuts, such as "Ed", with its first blight canker swollen, a very strong-growing volunteer  from a Virginia Tech breeding orchard, and "Joyce" an advanced intercross (Parent x F1) made by John Elkins in 1993, which has thrived with blight infection in a severe environment.

Because foresters don't like to cut down beautiful trees, in addition to all the chestnuts, ranging in age from one to 49 years old, there are four large tulip poplars and one oak among the upper eastern rows and in the space between the upper and lower rows.  Probably around 20 years old and up to 60 feet tall, they illustrate the site's growth potential.

We have kept to the approximate 10 foot spacing between chestnuts, but more than doubled the space between rows at VDF request for vehicle travel.  In the center of the square, the VDF bulldozed the cleared trash trees to fill a big dip; a similar dump is at the beginning of the first row at the bottom of this dip.  These places have become havens for birds, blackberries, and snakes.  In rows two through 5, many chestnuts planted in the dip died of apparent root rot, and we have left most of these spaces planted in grass.  We also left a broad space between the upper and lower rows and a lesser one between the western side and the eastern rows.  These are buffer zones against the spread of root disease.

In spite of watering, many of the seedlings planted in 2002 struggled for several years, with yellowish-green leaves and little or no growth increments, and many of them died in their first two years, before we discovered that Phytophthora was a problem here.  We can guess how this soil-born disease may have been introduced because it is endemic in Piedmont soils, and the Lesesne is near the edge of the Piedmont:  it was probably transported here on the tires of vehicles that had driven in infected fields or roadways.

After one of the big inspirational chestnut grafts died from root rot, Gary cordoned off the area around the two nearby grafts whose root systems were in contact with the dead tree to ward off foot travelers and inhibit deer.  Inside the cages where small seedlings had died, apparently from root rot, we removed them, treated the soil with SubdueMax fungicide drench and planted grass.  We also spread grass clippings around the outside of cages and sprinkled gypsum inside the cages of nearby seedlings to help control the spread of this disease.

These measures cannot save the big chestnuts with extensive, deep root systems, so Gary has been treating them with a combination of fungicides, painted on the lower bark (where Phytophthora can cause collar rot) or injected into the stem from whence it works down to the roots.  These treatments are experimental, but they have been used with success in avocado orchards.  He also covered the soil at the base of the trunks with limestone gravel, to prevent splashing of soil onto the bark during heavy rains.  Other measures to contain the spread of Phytophthora:   vehicle traffic is minimized and restricted to the roadways; we treat shoes, tools, gloves used in the infected area with 20% Clorox solution for two minutes; the contract mower power-washes his equipment, does not mow within 24 hours of a rainfall, and begins at the top of the plot, working downhill and avoiding the cordoned-off area.

Before we discovered the Phytophthora problem,  weeds appeared to be the most trouble.  This is to be expected in any fertile site in full sun. Where the soil is deepest  and in the dip, which holds moisture longest, by August the weeds are over my head.  I  tried tree mats to control weeds inside the cages; the tree mats encouraged voles.  We use Roundup between and outside the cages, and I hand-weed inside the cages, once in winter and twice in the growing season.  Weeding one row can take an hour.

Probing for vole tunnels with a stick, at first I seeded the tunnels with Prozap or another more expensive poison.  I found so many tunnels, I think chestnut roots must be the voles favorite food.  They may graze on feeder roots of seedlings for many years, severely stunting the growth (also causing yellowish-green leaves), or in a drought they may be capable of consuming the whole taproot, leaving a once three-foot tall chestnut seedling rootless and leaning against its cage.  In this way, I lost about a dozen seedlings here last August.  This year I tried Molemax sprinkled inside the cages, in March and June, with extra doses whenever new holes appeared or where my probe turned up new tunnels.  This has been more effective than poison (unless the poison had already knocked off most of the vole population), and this summer most of the formerly stunted chestnuts are thriving and many have doubled their size.  I will  apply Molemax again in September.  On the chance that nutrition delivered via the leaves may assist recovery of the chestnuts with vole-damaged root systems,  I spray the seedlings having poor leaf color with iron chelate and magnesium sulfate, on alternating weeks.
NOTE:  It is inadvisable to plant chestnuts in or near former apple orchards because voles are famous apple orchard pests

We plant empty spaces where chestnuts  have died from blight or voles by direct-seeding with members of the same family which were open-pollinated on a precocious F2 graft or on one of the parent trees.  There are about 30 places to be re-seeded this winter.   In drought, watering the one- and two-year old chestnuts can take two hours. 

There is so much work to be done in this plot, we work here most Tuesdays.  On workdays November through January, we prepare planting holes, direct-seed the nuts from the previous fall, erect protection cages and transplant volunteers (planted by squirrels, often inside the cages).  In February,  I am collecting scions and preparing the stems to be grafted beginning mid-March through April.   In late spring and summer, I try to cruise the whole plot,  checking and tying up the new grafts, straightening out any cages which the deer have crashed into and looking for other problems, with a roll of flagging and a Sevin sprayer handy.  Besides defoliation, insects can wound the tiny stems of new seedlings, providing an entry for blight before the seedlings are big enough to express resistance; they can take out the leader of big seedlings.   So I spray the newly planted chestnuts and those leaders still within reach on the bigger chestnuts.
Among my Lesesne grafts, 7 are bearing nuts and 4 others have made their first male flowers.  Among the seedlings planted in 2002, 38 have outgrown the 5-foot  tall cages and are enclosed in heavy-gauge, 4-foot cages with a bigger grid for easier weeding inside cages.  Eight of these are bearing nuts and an equivalent number made first male flowers.  Among the seedlings grown from chestnuts direct-seeded in 2003, 17 have outgrown the 5-foot cages, one made early flowers, and the tallest, at 18 feet, nearly equals the size of the champion among the seedlings in the lower rows which had a two-year head start!  The glorious chestnut grafts of 1980 are showing no signs of decline and producing big chestnut crops.  For the time being, the infection in their roots is under control.

The Lesesne is the largest of many research plots where American chestnuts in our breeding program are under study, producing information as well as chestnuts.  Future newsletters will visit the other plots.

Those of you who can travel and are unwilling to wait a year, may see one or more of the other research plots by volunteering to help at harvest, weekdays  September 22 through October 10.  To volunteer, suggest a date when you may be able to help, by e-mail to

My 2008 Report shows a total of 469 chestnuts surviving, mostly from direct-seeded nuts; 71 are new this year.  I have 99 grafts, only 18 of which are new, and 2 of these I shall have to destroy since they have been ID'd as American x Japanese hybrids.  We shall no longer solicit scions or identify leaves for others, because of the time involved.  To make the most of many possible intercrosses among the 12 parent trees already identified by our tests as blight resistant, we must concentrate on them. 

We received Reports from 209 growers in  2007, reporting on  5,175 ACCF chestnut survivors.  Where are the rest of the reports?  Since 1985 we have sent out about 160,000 American chestnuts. Where have all these chestnuts gone?  So far in 2008 we have received 141 reports, of 4,286 survivors

At the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Phytopathological Society, Gary's invited talk, reviewing and evaluating recent progress in the many branches of American chestnut research, was very well received.  Among the best pictures shown were the two biggest Lesesne grafts and John's "Joyce " chestnut.  This is the objective opinion of an interested observer.

Several years ago, Douglas J. Buege spent a week, working with us in many of our chestnut plots, as part of his preparation to write about the organizations working for American chestnut recovery.  His book has a few small errors and a final chapter with which we do not agree, but otherwise we recommend If a Tree Falls for evenhanded reporting written in engaging style.  Available from Xlibris Corp. at 1-888-795-4274 or

Thanks to Outstanding Cooperators
    who helped with the 2007 harvest:  Philip Latasa, Tim Logan, Vincent Roberts, E. C. Horman, Harold & Rich Pierce, Albert Ward, Molly & Shawn Hash.
    who assisted in spring 2008 grafting:  Eli Lewis and Elizabeth Cooper.
    who probed for voles and made the March Molemax application in the LesesneVictoria & Eli Lewis.
    who gave substantial funds that support student technicians to keep chestnut research going in the laboratory at Virginia Tech and pay the contractors for maintenance and improvements in the largest research plots:  The National Wild Turkey Federation, John B. Buschmann, Carl Mayfield, and Violet Pesinkowski.

Our directors believe in the all-American chestnut breeding program.  This is the reason for the ACCF.  We are working to restore 100% American chestnuts in our forests.  However, some of our growers have been hedging their bets and also planting hybrid chestnuts developed elsewhere.  The nuts from their plantings will not be all-American; in this way the ACCF contribution to American chestnut restoration could be diminished or erased.

To insure that American chestnut groves, established with our help, accurately reflect our breeding program, we have changed the Grower Agreement form.  To order or request ACCF seedlings, chestnuts or scions, please fill out and return the new form  (link on front page).  If  you have already reported via our Web site, please indicate this on the Report form.  The $20 donation to ACCF research is unaffected by inflation, but please note that the nursery cost of seedlings is valid only for the 2008 supply.

When we establish a chestnut planting, we try to plant on sites which are ideal for growing American chestnuts, but a trouble-free chestnut site has not yet been found.  So if you want a successful chestnut planting, you must commit to defend your work, in spite of all losses.  You may e-mail me for advice in dealing with trouble as it arises (, or write in the space at the bottom of the Report Form.  Your reports are most welcome;  we look forward to them.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors
Gary Griffin, President, Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology, Virginia Tech

Dave McCurdy, Vice-president, retired  Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV

John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord  College, WV

William Pilkington, Treasurer,   Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV

Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN

2007 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

If you have reported on previous ACCF plantings and donated $20 in 2007, and if we have a Grower Agreement Form on file in your name, you are welcome to order American chestnut seedlings (through November) and/or nuts (until October 15). The 2007 cost per bundle of 25 or fewer American chestnut seedlings is $27.  Growers west of the Mississippi need to add $5 extra per bundle to cover higher mailing cost.   Please make the check payable to ACCF.

From the 2006 Virginia harvest we sent 3,880 nuts to cooperating growers, 4,698 nuts to nurseries in West Virginia, and last winter the nursery distributed 4,535 American chestnut seedlings to our cooperating growers.

You can either harvest chestnuts out of the trees in their burs or off the ground where they have dropped.  Following last falls abundant harvest,  I thought we might switch to this second method, eliminate the storage problem and the job of getting nuts out of burs, and greatly decrease the numbers to be processed and sent to growers.   The squirrels have been good cooperators for several years now, planting nuts in every one of our breeding orchards and even starting some of them right in the row where there was a space, so I do not mind letting them have a bigger share.   However, Dave McCurdy tells me that the nursery chestnuts will produce a much smaller crop this fall because of poor pollination.  So we must try for the big harvest once again, to be able to send the nursery sufficient seed to make 2008 seedlings.  
    Chestnut trees are individuals with different schedules:  they do not all ripen their chestnuts at the same time, but over a period of roughly two weeks which, in Virginia, usually begins in the last week of September.  Harvest starts when burs begin to crack open, then the burs on that tree may be ready to pick.  However, burs which contain no viable nuts may crack open as much as two weeks early, and chestnut trees often contain small numbers where the flowers happened not to be fertilized.  Furthermore, the first chestnuts to make flowers contain much larger numbers of infertile nuts, because many of their flowers were receptive before any pollen was available.  So before picking a tree we make sure that the cracked burs contain full, fat chestnuts, not sunken blanks.  We use hand clippers and a pruning pole that extends up to 12 feet, and sometimes also a 6-foot ladder.  Wearing leather gloves we collect the burs into dog food bags, marked with the date and the name of the mother tree and store them in a rodent-free cool place, in the basement or in lidded garbage pails in the shade.
    MANY THANKS to the volunteers who helped pick chestnut burs in 2006:   Matt Habersack, Albert Ward, Nate Faris, Rich and Harold Pierce.     To help at harvest, e-mail Lucille at for a date and directions.  We will not begin picking the burs before the week of September 24, leaving our yard at 9 a.m.;  in  afternoons the first week of October, we should begin getting the nuts out of the burs.   We will not harvest on the weekends of September 22 and 29 because of home football games.   
    We check the storage bags once a week, dumping the contents onto a picnic table to see if more burs have cracked open .  Wearing heavier leather gloves, we remove the nuts from their burs, then return the unopened burs to their bags for a few more days in storage, when they can be checked again.  In years of fall drought, some burs will not crack open unassisted:  rolling the bur back and forth underfoot sometimes does the trick.  Burs which cannot be opened by humans may be scattered in the woods, where the animals can deal with them or they might be planted, expecting a very low percentage to make seedlings. 
WEEVILS  are common throughout the range of American chestnuts, especially in areas where Chinese chestnuts have been planted and their nuts and burs are left to rot on the ground.  The insect lays its eggs in the young chestnut flowers and weevils (tiny worms) develop inside the chestnuts and burs.  The weevils over-winter in the ground where they emerged from wasted nuts and spent burs to hatch out the following spring and increase destruction of the next nut crop.  To control weevils, you make a clean harvest, burn or bury the burs and ruined nuts and encourage your neighbors to do likewise.

We must assume there may be weevils in the chestnuts, so we give our chestnuts a hot water bath at 120 F for 20 minutes to  kill  weevils the same day that the nuts come out of the burs.  After the hot bath, we put the chestnuts in a cold bath to stop the heat treatment.  Once they are cooled down, we pat them dry and spread them on newspapers till they are no longer damp; then we pack them with slightly damp peat moss in plastic bags with a few pin holes for air exchange and send them to growers.
    Those chestnuts which we keep to plant in our research plots, we place inside plastic mayonnaise or peanut butter jars in which small holes have been drilled, in a 50/50 mix of sand and peat moss.  We bury the jars under about 4 inches of soil with grave markers.  In Virginia the chestnuts can be safely stored this way until early February, when many of them will begin sprouting.  We have direct-seeded chestnuts in November, December, January and February and have had the best success with January planting.
      Growers who do not plant their chestnuts when received, but store them in the refrigerator, should check the bag at least once a week, to be sure the chestnuts are not drying out or getting wet and becoming moldy, then turn the bag onto the other side.  It is too easy to forget this chore and let the seed spoil in storage; in this way, very large numbers of seed are lost each year because growers cannot plant when they receive them.
    You may notice on the Grower Agreement Form that we will be sending only 10 chestnuts per grower request.   Growers who need a larger number for a group project may obtain more by volunteering at harvest, taking your chestnuts in the burs and doing the processing yourselves.

GYPSY  MOTH has invaded Giles County.  Luckily, only one of our research plots was infested.  I first noticed tiny black caterpillars toward the end of May, picked off by hand those within reach on our chestnuts, squashed them and sprayed with Sevin.  Their numbers and size increased at an alarming rate.  It became necessary to visit the plot at least twice a week, pick them off and stomp them, spray after each rain.  While the tall canopy oaks were completely stripped of leaves, followed by nearly all the other hardwoods and understory trees and bushes, our chestnuts thrived in the additional sunlight.  The battle to save them lasted about 3 weeks, and we must expect a similar job in this plot in future years.  We noticed that the gypsy moth does not eat the leaves of the tulip poplar or cucumber magnolia.  This suggests that plantings located in clearings within solid groves of these species (such as the Pandapas plot below our yard) may be less likely to suffer a gypsy moth attack.
516 of the American chestnuts I planted are still growing.  Among them, 155  are new this year, although 20 of these are not planted on their permanent sites but growing in a yard nursery, for transplant following dormancy this November.  These 20 are survivors from a bunch of rejects: they appeared during processing to be in very poor condition, too discolored --suggesting possible mold-- or too dry to send to growers or to the nursery; they are a great example of the benefit of getting the seed right into the ground.   In addition to the numbers above, we have at least 3 dozen chestnuts which I did not count because they were planted by the squirrels.  My tallest seedling is Pacman E; I am unable to measure it without help.  The tallest grown from 2006 nuts are 2 feet.  Six of my seedlings are bearing nuts.  Losses in our research plots were attributed to voles, root rot or blight.

As of December 7, we have received 194 reports, for a total of 5,027 ACCF chestnuts reported.  These numbers will be updated, as more reports come in.

  The past two years I have tried a few topgrafts (whips), choosing stocks among sunny -side branches on blight resistant American chestnuts which are growing in places where a pollinator is distant or lacking.   On the down side, because the grafted branches are only 1/4 inch in diameter, the graft is vulnerable to blight.  However, these grafts are much easier to execute because you are not lying on the ground and there is nothing to inhibit making the cuts exactly as you want to, so I judged it worth the risk.   Two of my new grafts this year are topwork and  although they are still alive, their branches could go out this winter.   Including these, I have 19 new grafts growing in 4 sites.  All but 2  (triangles) are whip grafts.  Last winter we lost several big grafts (voles eating the roots) and had the tops blight-killed in several others.  Surviving are 105 grafts, divided among 9 sites.  The tallest is Thorofare Gap, grafted in our yard in 1991.  Forty-one of my grafts bear nuts, and their pollen is improving the potential of the chestnuts harvested in 5 of our breeding orchards.
    Yes, indeed, I am bragging a little, hoping to interest some more of you in learning to graft, to improve your own chestnut plantings, like Harold Pierce is doing in Alabama:  he has 2 grafts from 2005, one from 2006  and 8 from 2007;  all  bark grafts into chinquapin, they represent a very nice variety of blight resistant American chestnuts.  Health problems prevented Carl  Mayfield from grafting this year, but he has sent in a wonderful report of  29 grafts surviving from past years; among them are nearly all the American chestnuts of note in our breeding program.

The Nathan nutgraft on which we have been reporting the progress of blight-resistance trials has been killed by a root rot.  Another, smaller Nathan nutgraft on a different site is in its second summer with blight.  It has 7 burs. 

The bare-root seedlings from the nursery require one gallon of water each week of drought through their first two growing seasons.  For successful planting, it is very important to plan for this.  On planting sites where watering may be a problem, it is best to plant smaller numbers and consider starting from nuts instead of seedlings.
    Here in Virginia, we often have drought in August, and in some of our plots, also in July and September.  So we have been establishing the Pandapas plot, by direct-seeding  about 20 per year, with the goal of making a  grove of 100 American chestnuts in the National Forest 100 yards down the mountain from our yard.   We plant the nuts inside 8 inch tree shelters, sunken a few inches in the ground and surrounded by wire cages to deter raccoons.  The small seedlings, less than two feet tall, can survive on a quart of water per week of drought because their roots are equal to the stems and sometimes larger (whereas nursery seedling roots were trimmed at lifting).  We remove the short tree shelters after the first growing season.
    In Turkey Run, the two research plots are both 100 yards up the mountain from the access road.  These plots were originally for grafting, but so many of the native root systems have been weakened or killed, we decided to plant about a dozen seedlings to make up the deficit.  Direct-seeding there just provided more food for a large vole population.   Therefore, this winter we started nuts in December by the Moote Method, in a south-facing window , as follows:  using 18 inch tree shelters with newspaper liners, we filled them with a 50/50 mix of damp peat moss & sand, let the fill settle for a day and then press a nut one inch down, lay  plastic wrap on top until the sprouts begin to emerge (about one month), water sparingly, the same as other house plants.  In January and February we dug 2 foot planting holes and put gallon milk jugs full of water, 3 each per hole, inside the cages where animals could not steal the water.   During a rainy week in May, we transplanted the 6 to 8-inch tall seedlings.  These tiny seedlings also can get by on about a quart of water per week of drought. Watering them in the cool of early morning through the summer heat was made easy, with the supply already on site.

We thank the National Wild Turkey Federation for continuing generous support of our cooperative research with the Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA-Forest Service and Virginia Tech, breeding for blight resistance, establishing and maintaining forest plots of ACCF all-American chestnuts.
     John B. Bushmann, Ken James, Carl Mayfield,  and Violet Pesinkowski,  long-term, big supporters of the research for American chestnut restoration.
    Philip Latasa once again volunteered several days  in the Lesesne last winter, making the work go faster as we moved protection cages, removed tree mats, weeded and treated the soil with gypsum (where we have had root-rot in the past) and prepared new planting holes.
    Remmington Bolt  also volunteered several days last winter, pruning trees at the Airport and cutting trees at Turkey Run.       

    These are a few of my favorite things:  working outdoors, the company of towhees, bluebirds and indigo buntings, watching chestnuts grow, the green of new leaves unfolding on grafts and seedlings,  a complete row of American chestnuts, a  fawn springing  up from its bed in the tall weeds, a newly mown or completely weeded research plot, hundred-foot tall tulip poplars right next to a chestnut plot, the perfect mornings in March and April when I  graft with highest expectations,  the moments each year when the last newsletter is in the mail, the last nuts are off to growers, the last orders, to the nursery, and lots of reports about ACCF chestnuts.  Thanks again for sending your report.
            Respectfully submitted,

            Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors
Gary Griffin, President, Professor of Forest Pathology, Virginia Tech
Dave McCurdy, Vice-president,  Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV
John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord         College, WV
William Pilkington, Treasurer,   Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV
Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation
                2006 Newsletter
     Send your report via
  or to
           2667 Forest Service Road 708
             Newport, Virginia  24128

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

We shall distribute American chestnut seedlings and/or nuts to growers who have made the annual $20 donation to ACCF research, have sent in a completed Grower Agreement Form and have reported in 2006 on the status of their previous ACCF planting projects.

There in no monetary profit in our chestnut distributions.  Each year we aim to break even.  After learning the nursery cost per bundle of seedlings, we make a price to include the average cost of priority mailing east of the Mississippi.  The past few years, the Foundation has lost money on seedling distributions, and this year the nursery costs have gone up one dollar per bundle of 25. Therefore, the 2006 cost per bundle of 25 American chestnut seedlings is $25. Growers west of the Mississippi need to add $5 per bundle to cover a higher mailing cost. Please make all checks payable to ACCF.

From the 2005 Virginia harvest we sent 2,378 nuts to cooperating growers, 7,541 nuts to the nursery in West Virginia, and the nursery distributed 5011 American chestnut seedlings to our cooperating growers.


Right up front, we wish to thank all the volunteers who helped with the 2005 chestnut harvest: Tim Logan, Jack Torkelson, Bruce Engen, Gary Pace, Philip Latasa, Michael Linder and Steve Prupas.

To pitch in at harvest, e-mail Lucille at for a date and directions. We are likely to begin picking the burs mornings on the week of September 18, leaving our yard at 9 a.m.; we should begin getting the nuts out of the burs in  afternoons by October 2. We will not be scheduling any harvest help for the weekends of September 16, 23 and 30 because the home football games monopolize local accommodations and highways.


Before the deer herd had become a problem, perhaps 20 years ago, when we did not have enough cooperating growers to plant all our seednuts, I used to plant the extras along the edges of wildlife clearings in the National Forest or along the Forest Service Road. Since they were planted without protection, nearly all of those chestnuts have been eaten. Fewer than a dozen have survived continuous munching and exist as tiny bushes. Just one among the hundreds planted has made a great escape. It is almost 4 inches dbh and 30 feet tall, growing in semi-shade on the steep bank opposite our driveway. Last winter when it developed a fist-sized canker halfway up the trunk, I expected the top to die this summer. However, in September, the only dead foliage is on a lower branch. Gary's opinion of this tree, Keep an eye on it. In keeping with the designations assigned to our yard seedlings, we named this chestnut, G-wiz.

This story illustrates several points: First, it is unwise to assume that chestnuts can grow into trees without benefit of protection cages. Second, the larger a chestnut can grow before its first blight attack, the better its chances to express blight resistance. Third, it is very important to note when a chestnut is first attacked by blight and observe its reaction. Fourth, a chestnut which has not been attacked by blight (blight free), however lovely to look upon, is not yet anything special. Finally, one observation of a blight resistant reaction is insufficient evidence; to be included in our breeding program, the chestnut has to prove itself by surviving five to 10 additional years without death in its crown.


As more and more enthusiasts comb the woods each year, more discoveries of large American chestnuts (over 10 inches dbh) are reported. In most cases these chestnuts are disease escapes, growing in the far north, south or western edge of the natural range for the species or in a pocket sheltered from normal wind dispersal of the blight fungus.  They may be blight free or they may have grown quite large before their first blight attack. Like my G-wiz chestnut, they also bear watching. Although they are likely to die from blight within a few years, there is always a chance that some may prove to have durable blight resistance.


The ACCF chestnuts we distribute to you, our cooperating growers, have much greater chances to express blight resistance. We estimate at least 10%. The best possible result will be obtained by growers who plant in well-drained, sandy loam soil, in full sun, on cove slopes facing North to East at altitudes below 2,500 feet, protecting against injury to the trunk and leader of each seedling with 5-foot-tall wire caging, and regularly checking seedlings to deal with other problems as they arise.

The most important site requirement is that it be well-drained, to avoid the possibility of root rot. Growers who have discovered root rot among their plantings should try to limit its spread by fencing off and marking the area with bright flagging, avoiding work there when the ground is wet, planting grasses but no seedlings downhill from the infected area and treating tools, gloves and footwear with a 20% Clorox solution immediately after use there (for more information, scroll down and see Phytophthora, in the 2003 Newsletter).

Tree mats (Forestry Suppliers, Inc.) are helpful in controlling weeds inside the cages, but they also offer cover for voles that can nip off the chestnut roots. Weeds and grasses are serious competition to young seedlings and will greatly retard their growth, leaving the seedlings at high risk for a longer period. In very fertile plots we are unable to control the weeds without tree mats. We lift the mats two or three times a year, pull weeds and put poison (Prozap) into vole runs and tunnels.

Japanese beetles can be picked off by hand from lower branches and hit with Sevin on leaves that are out of reach. Where a plot is isolated, you can spread Milky Spore over the grassy area to wipe out the Japanese beetle problem.

Ambrosia beetles can be eliminated if the infestation is caught early in spring and sprayed with permethrin through that growing season and again in March of the next year.

When a small chestnut seedling (under an inch in diameter) is girdled by blight, the stem can be cut near ground level and the wound covered with soil.  If its root system is healthy, a new shoot will take over, grow rapidly and give the chestnut a second chance.

Pruning is not usually advised, but sometimes you need to cut out blighted branches. This should be done in the fall when the blight fungus is least active. Cover the wound with pruning seal. When a chestnut has more than one stem, choose the strongest and cut the others below ground level, cover these cuts with soil.

The first swollen blight canker often occurs at the base of a chestnut. We advise making mud packs to cover basal cankers through winter dormancy and keep them in place, watering occasionally, until the seedling is 1.5 inches in diameter.

 When the leaves of a seedling are not dark green, there may be a nutrient deficiency. This can occur occasionally in a plot where other seedlings are making healthy growth. We spray yellowish leaves with magnesium sulfate and repeat the following week if their color seems to be improving. Otherwise, spray chelated iron and observe whether it makes a difference.  This is quicker and cheaper than individual soil or leaf tests for each plant.

 About midway through the growing season, often the leaves on the tips of branches in many chestnuts become rumply and curled up. This is an unidentified disease, possibly a virus. It is not lethal, but it sharply curtails growth for the rest of that season. This year we noticed that in many cases the curly leaves are lighter in color than the other leaves on the chestnut.  We sprayed magnesium sulfate and iron chelate on the curly tips, on the possibility that the chestnuts are deprived of nutrients.  In many cases, the curly leaves turned a darker green, and in several cases the seedling resumed production of normal leaves.


This year I have 406 American chestnut seedlings growing, of which 105 are from chestnuts planted last winter. My tallest is Pacman E, which has had swollen blight cankers since 1999. Six of my seedlings are bearing nuts. My losses are nearly all attributed to voles or blight.

As of December 15, we have received 152 reports, for a total of 10,092 ACCF chestnuts reported.  The numbers above will be updated, as more reports of chestnuts from ACCF distributions come in.


In the past I have reported some instances of high percentage takes with bark and cleft grafting methods. Unfortunately, the numbers have not held up. Many bark and cleft grafts make spectacular growth on incomplete unions, but for many years they remain highly vulnerable to total wipeout from high winds. Comparing my notes, I was unable to find anything to account for this uneven reliability. So I have given up on them; beginning this year I am making only whip and triangle grafts. John Elkins still has good success with bark grafts.

I have 90 grafts growing well, of which only 9 are new this year.  My tallest is Thorofare Gap, at 50 feet; it was grafted in 1991 and has had swollen blight cankers since 1998. Thirty-one of my grafts are bearing nuts. Losses are attributed to incomplete unions and blight.

A few of our best grafters have reported early: Carl Mayfield has 42 ACCF grafts, of which 7 are new this year. Ed Greenwell has 49 grafts, of which the tallest is 25 feet.  Carl & Ed make mostly nut grafts. Harold Pierce has 6 grafts, of which 3 are new this year; Harold grafts into chinquapin stocks.


The end of this growing season finds Nathan Pease 25 feet tall, with no new blight cankers and its one trunk canker surrounded by swollen tissue which has expanded inward to cover a little of the exposed wood. We are watching it: two years down and 8 to go.

We thank the National Wild Turkey Federation for continuing generous support of our cooperative research with the Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA-Forest Service and Virginia Tech, establishing and maintaining forest plots of ACCF all-American chestnuts.

The Pandapas plot now has 79 American chestnuts growing.  They are mostly first generation crosses among chestnuts that were not represented in our original intercrosses:  Thompson, NC Champ, Ragged Mt, and JEB.  We also planted some volunteers into which we plan to graft the parent trees (above).  From 2006, we have one JEB graft started.   The tallest chestnut in this plot is a 5-foot (Thompson x NC Champ) from a nut planted in 2003.

 At Turkey Run 18 grafts survive, and two of these are new in 2006;  all are in the (Ruth x Miles) family, F2s. The two grafts killed in 2005 by ambrosia beetle have sprouted back; time will tell whether these sprouts come from the grafts or the blight-susceptible stocks. One graft made male flowers only.

Three seedlings planted in 2002 survive; the tallest is 5 feet. We direct-seeded twelve more chestnuts harvested from a (Ruth x Miles) F2, by planting them inside 2-feet tall, fine-mesh hardware cylinders that were sunken a foot into the soil which contained glass shards; most germinated, but all were killed by voles.  To plant these places we shall try one more time, in winter of 2007, using seedlings grown from  an open-pollinated F2.  Most of the work in this plot is management, cutting the other trees, so that the chestnuts are the tallest trees and wind dispersal of pollen (perhaps next year) may be most efficient.

In the Lesesne State Forest, Nelson County, we have 234 seedlings mostly growing from various F1 and F2 intercrosses along with a smaller number of open-pollinated nuts from the parent trees of these crosses. Sixty-four of these are from nuts planted last winter; some are survivors from a test planting  (to determine whether Phytophthora was still a problem) in 20 holes which were treated with SubdueMax drench in 2004 and 2005 after the previous seedlings died of root rot.  This year, all seedlings and grafts in the lower half of the 3.4 acre plot received a dressing of gypsum, which is said to disrupt Phytophthora reproduction, and the grafts and seedlings near or downhill from the 1980 Thompson and Ragged Mt grafts (which have survived with blight control for 25 years and are now seriously threatened by Phytophthora root rot) were surrounded with a thick mulch of grass clippings, to inhibit spread of  this root disease. Fungicide treatments are being continued only within the canopy of the two large grafts, above.


John B. Bushmann, Ken James, Karl Mayfield, and Violet Pesinkowski continue extensive support for and participation in American chestnut restoration research.

Philip Latasa was most helpful during the 2005 chestnut harvest and also volunteered many hours working in the Lesesne, lopping off ailanthus, digging and preparing the planting holes, making protection cages and pruning trees that shaded the planting area.

Jenny & Lizzy Cooper again spent their spring vacation grafting American chestnuts.

FOR INTERNET RESOURCES:Scroll down to the end of the 2005 or 2004 newsletter.

We are a very small, nonprofit foundation, capable of doing a very big job for American chestnut restoration because our scientists and officers are all dedicated volunteers and the Foundation neither owns nor rents property.  Thus, we can make progress with a small budget, because funds are needed only to support the research, to pay for student assistance in the laboratory and field, for plot maintenance and supplies, and for correspondence and mailing seednuts to you, our cooperating growers.  The thousands of ACCF American chestnuts growing in research plots on public lands and on your lands, and you, our cooperating growers, are the most important assets of our Foundation. Our rewards are in knowledge reaped from scientific research and field experience and shared with the public.  We thank you for joining in and supporting our work and look forward to counting many more of your reports among this year's rewards.

Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors:

Gary Griffin, President, Professor of Forest Pathology, Virginia Tech
Dave McCurdy, Vice-president, Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV
John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord College, WV
William Pilkington, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV
Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperator's Foundation

2005 Newsletter

The 2005 Seedling Cost is $40 per 50 or fewer year-old, bare-root American chestnut seedlings mailed to growers east of the Mississippi. For western growers, the cost is $50 per 50 seedlings, to cover the additional mailing cost. Seedling orders need to be submitted on a Cooperating Grower Agreement form (inside leaf), unless we already have one here on file for you. Make the check out to ACCF, and please remember to include your annual donation if you have not already sent it in. Early ordering is strongly advised; we ran out of seedlings in the beginning of November in 2004.

Everyone who has a Grower Agreement on file with us and has sent in a donation this year may request up to 15 American chestnut seeds. But you will need to get your request in early, also: all chestnut seeds which have not been requested by October 15, will be shipped to the nursery to make next year's seedlings. We have discontinued the practice of sending out larger seed lots to individuals or groups. The work of processing, extracting them from their burs and then the hot water treatment, 120 F for 20 minutes, is very time-consuming, and we do not have the capacity to store large numbers of chestnut seed.

From the 2004 Virginia harvest we sent 4,716 nuts to cooperating growers and the nursery in West Virginia, and the nursery distributed 5544 American chestnut seedlings to our cooperating growers.

The only way to get more than 15 American chestnuts is to help out at harvest and take up to 100 nuts home with you, in their burs, and process them yourself. We need volunteer help at chestnut harvest, usually beginning in the third week of September, to cut out the burs on the trees ready to be harvested and put burs into dog food bags marked by mother tree. The seed orchards are in Blacksburg and Giles County. I usually leave home around 9 and work till noon or until the work for that day is done. Some days there may be only one tree to harvest, other days, many. The burs are cut with an extension pole pruner usually 12 feet long; you hold it overhead, stretching to reach the burs and bracing against the rope pull that works the blade. It is hard work, for strong, younger persons. To pitch in at harvest, e-mail Lucille at for a date and directions.
We store the burs in the basement about a week, until many are cracking open, then extract nuts from the burs, wearing heavy leather gloves, working outside on a picnic table, usually afternoons, beginning in the end of September. This is a repetitive job that wears out your hands and grip. We would be grateful for help with this, also.

Voles are determined miners of American chestnuts, eating the nuts before they sprout and eating the roots when they grow below the protection of the tree shelter. Direct-seeding chestnuts is wasted effort in the face of large vole populations and nursery plantings may be possible only with special precautions. The bed should be prepared by digging a trench one foot deep and lining the bottom and sides with quarter-inch grid hardware cloth before replacing the soil and planting. The hardware cloth should extend several inches above ground where it is joined by a ch chicken-wire fence. Poison baits to be placed in PVC pipes or tire halves can be obtained at feed stores, but they require daily monitoring to remove the dead voles.

The Asian ambrosia beetle is a tiny pest which has been found throughout the southeast, from Texas to coastal Maryland. To reproduce, the female bores pinholes into the sapwood of young, thin-barked hardwoods. The beetle damage is most serious when it begins in early March and April, and it continues at lower levels until fall. While many other tree species may survive, an attack by ambrosia beetles can be a death sentence for American chestnut because the blight fungus may enter through the many tiny holes.

Defend against this pest by examining the lower trunk and branches of chestnuts smaller than 3 inches in diameter at breast height: look for the telltale pinholes; sometimes a tiny column of sawdust is protruding from the hole. Check once a week at least, beginning in March and throughout the season. If any pinholes are found, treat the entire bark surface weekly with a spray containing permethrin. Prune out heavily infested stems and burn them. Stems with strong root systems can sprout back if you cut the stem near ground level and cover the wound with soil.
Here in the Virginia mountains, this is the first year we have found ambrosia beetle damage. Because so much is at stake in the four research plots involved, we have been spraying all the chestnut stems 3 inches in diameter and smaller in these plots. The beetles had been at work for two months before we discovered them, so we may lose at least six large grafts. We hope, through vigilance and prompt treatment, that you may be able to avoid similar losses.

This Grower's Report covers twelve separate American chestnut research plots: eleven are in three Virginia counties and one is in West Virginia. Half are in yard or orchard settings and half are in the forest. I have been planting American chestnuts since 1985. This year I counted 331 survivors, of which 131 are F2 seedlings (second generation all-Americans). My tallest is Pacman, at about 35 feet, and three of my seedlings are bearing nuts. Seedling losses this year I attribute, in order of importance, to poor germination, hungry voles, blight, Phytophthora, and other unidentified varmints.

As of MAY 8, we have received 141 reports from growers, for a total of 6639 ACCF chestnuts reported.

This Grafter's Report covers eight grafting plots in Virginia, all of which contain seedling plantings, also. Four plots are in the National Forest. For 2005, I have only 15 new grafts surviving. From all the years since 1990, I have 111 surviving grafts of which 26 are bearing nuts. Thirty-eight are F2 grafts, and three of these are bearing. As always, graft failure is the biggest problem, followed by premature blight infection, undermining of the root systems by a root rot or voles, and now also, the ambrosia beetle.

We look forward to reading your grafting reports, and as they are received, they will be posted in the on-line newsletter here:

Carl Mayfield reports 41 surviving ACCF grafts. Harold Pierce beginning this year grafting into chinquapin has 4 grafts.

Nathan Pease is the occasional subject of inquiry. Ed Greenwell named his Pease seedling, Nathan when it showed precocious blight resistance. You may remember that we began the blight-resistance trial on a Nathan nutgraft in May 2004, by inoculating the lowest branch in two places with a killing strain of the blight fungus. This May the results were disappointing: the level of blight resistance recorded in the one-year test is very low and would be insufficient for inclusion in our breeding program. However, there is the second, long-term test: this spring we inoculated a blight canker on Nathan's trunk with hypovirulent strains of the blight fungus. A few of our American chestnuts, which did not test well at first, have since shown impressive long-term resistance (10 years +).

Breeding: We have just over a hundred control bags up in six different mother trees. All of this year's intercrosses are first generation all-Americans, to increase the numbers that may be available for future testing in several new lines which we started in previous years. Although the mother trees have demonstrated very impressive long-term blight resistance, we have learned from past resistance trials that blight resistance of the parent trees does not regularly combine. Equal or better blight resistance may be expected to show up in about 10% of the progeny. This is one reason why breeding for blight resistance takes so much time.

Another reason is premature infection with the blight fungus. The one-year resistance test requires trunks blight free and at least 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height. Before they reach this size, many American chestnuts have blight on the main stem. This is the case with our large, bearing F2 grafts. We inoculated their cankers with hypovirulence and will have to watch them over 10 years, instead of being able to make selections for the next generation following a one-year test. Thus, we did not put bags on the F2 flowers.

We thank the National Wild Turkey Federation for continuing support of our cooperative research with the Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA-Forest Service and Virginia Tech, establishing and maintaining forest plots of ACCF all-American chestnuts.

The Pandapas plot has 96 prepared planting holes, with staked 5-foot weldwire cages and tree mats for weed control. From the 2003 planting, 7 (Th x J) and 7 volunteers (for grafting) have survived. Last winter, we direct-seeded nuts to fill all the empty spaces for a total of 96 and planted four to six daffodils around each cage in an attempt to create an area unappetizing to voles. We also made a small nursery planting with 30 extra from this seed lot in a cold frame in our yard, for a backup system, in case of poor germination or theft. Only 31 of the direct-seeded chestnuts germinated and all 30 in the backup nursery were stolen by voles. The tallest new seedling is 21 inches. We are contemplating strategies for planting the 51 empty spaces this winter.

At Turkey Run 15 grafts survive. Two each were killed this past spring by blight and ambrosia beetle. The few new grafts made failed, so we concentrated efforts to cut back the competing tree species and bring more sunlight on the grafts and other chestnuts which may be grafted in a year or two, when they are growing more vigorously. We direct-seeded seven (Ruth x Miles) to fill the empty places in the small planting area where three chestnuts from previous plantings survive. Here we had excellent germination, but one by one, at six to eight inches tall, the five planted in the bottom row died, their roots trimmed off by voles.

In the Lesesne State Forest, Nelson County, we planted in holes where nuts or seedlings had previously failed 59 open-pollinated nuts and 12 volunteer seedlings. None of the nuts germinated in the two sections in which we have a Phytophthora problem, while seven of the small volunteer seedlings survive there, but with insignificant incremental growth. We continue to treat with SubdueMax fungicide drench, spring and fall, most of the lower half of this 3.5 acre plot and also tried a chicken manure treatment in the spring.

In the 2003 planting section, most of the open pollinated nuts germinated and 9 have survived. Nearly all of the controlled pollinated nuts germinated, also: we have 27 (NCC x J), 26 (VT2 x G4) and 12 Pacman. Total survivors in this planting, including 6 F1 back-crosses to the Floyd parent, are 80. Many of the new seedlings were at or over 20 inches tall when checked on August 9, and the tallest 2-year-old is 4.5 feet.

In the 2002 planting, 88 of the original F2 seedlings survive, along with 5 F2 grafts and 5 volunteers for future grafting. The tallest seedling is 12 feet. Most of the losses in this planting have been to Phytophthora.

The western third of the Lesesne plot contains the big 1980 grafts and many root systems from the original Dietz planting in 1969, some of which may receive grafts in the future. We have nine new grafts in this area, along with 12 others made since 2000. Three of the older grafts and one from this spring have died apparently from root rot, along with two small seedlings. Ten seedlings survive, although the tallest has yellowing leaves which might be an early sign of stress from root rot. In addition to the fungicide drench, we spray yellowing leaves with magnesium sulfate and amend the soil inside the cage with compost, in case the problem may be nutritional.
We have gone into detail, to give the newcomers among an idea of some growing problems in forest settings, as well as any planting place without very good drainage.

Outstanding Cooperators:

John B. Bushmann, Ken James, Karl Mayfield, and Violet Pesinkowski are long-term, outstanding supporters of and contributors to American chestnut research.

Charlie Elgin and another gentleman, whose name I have misplaced, helped with the 2004 chestnut harvest. We hope to recognize the unidentified gentleman here next year.

Jenny & Lizzy Cooper cut trees in the Turkey Run plot and grafted, spending their spring vacation helping the American chestnut cause.

INTERNET RESOURCES: Ed's Web page showing Nathan's progress

The Tennessee ACCF site, also by Ed:

ACCF Links page, by Ed, featuring a March 2003, photo of Jenny Cooper grafting in Craigs Creek research plot:

We are working for American chestnut restoration with the hope of making a small contribution which might be multiplied many times throughout the natural range and through the generations to improve our forests. This is often hard work and also demands a stubborn, long-term commitment, keen observation skills and a thoughtful, rapid response in problem-solving. It teaches the habit of keeping notes and is a great introduction to scientific study. With our work product constantly exposed to the forces of nature, we learn to develop patience in adversity and humility in success. Our spirits are uplifted by each small advance, and we give thanks. These are the values which made our country great. You cannot go wrong by involving the whole family, children and grandchildren in American chestnut restoration.

Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Professor of Forest Pathology, Virginia Tech

Dave McCurdy, Vice-president, Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV

John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord College, WV

William Pilkington, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV

Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation

2004 Newsletter


Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:

STRONG HELP WANTED AT HARVEST to wield 12 and 20 foot extension-pole pruners and cut the burs out of seednut mother trees. We will need help on September 18, 20-24, 27-30 and October 1.  Meet at Forest Service Rd708, Newport, VA at 9 a.m; e-mail for directions.


In our quest for all-American chestnuts with high blight resistance, we start from original blight survivors with low levels of blight resistance. By selecting the best blight-resistant individuals through successive generations of breeding, we aim to concentrate their blight resistance, to obtain the high level which is required for long-term survival within the American chestnut's natural range. This is a classic breeding method.  It has been widely successful, creating many disease-resistant crops.

With trees, it just takes longer. A generation for American chestnuts is 8 to 10 years from controlled pollination to blight-resistance testing. We have three breeding lines in their second generation; of these only (Ruth x Miles) may begin testing within a year or two. Other 2004 controlled all-American intercrosses include (G4 x Fl), (BigM x G4), (Fl x JEB), (Th x JEB), (RgMt x JEB), (NCC x JEB), (MtL x JEB), (MtL x Am), (Lo x Am) and (Lo x JEB).

But what about the seedlings and seednuts from open pollination which you, our cooperating growers, are raising?  Thousands of these, planted within the natural range, are being field-tested by the ever-present blight. Most may have some genes in common with our controlled intercrosses, as well as genes from dozens of other blight-resistant American chestnuts. The best blight-resistant individuals to turn up among them are to be our source of diversity for the blight resistant American chestnut population. Gary and John plan to visit your plantations as they mature to evaluate these American chestnuts. We rely upon your reports to help identify the best American chestnuts from our distributions. Pollen and scions from the very best among them will add the finishing touch to each ACCF breeding line.


We request all cooperating growers to sign, date and fill out the enclosed Cooperating Grower's Agreement form, in pledge of your commitment to our breeding program. An additional document (posted on our Web site) will be required for orders of 100 or more seedlings or requests for larger than the usual (15) seednut allotment.


The 2004 nursery cost for seedlings is $35 per 50 or fewer year-old, bare-root American chestnut seedlings. This includes Priority mailing, where necessary, to most addresses East of the Mississippi. Growers West of the Mississippi need to add $10 per 50 American chestnuts to cover a higher shipping cost. Orders must be received on a Cooperating Grower's Agreement form. We strongly advise those who cannot plant seedlings in winter to request seednuts instead.

The nursery distribution schedule depends upon the weather.  American chestnuts must be fully dormant before lifting. Also, the machinery cannot operate on very wet terrain.  Thus, the date when seedlings may be mailed is unknown until the last minute, and we are unable to promise delivery for a specific date. In general, the chestnuts are lifted in the second half of November, processed and packed on a Saturday for mailing the following Monday. All growers should start now to prepare the holes and erect protection cages. The ability to plant seedlings soon after they arrive correlates strongly with high transplant success.

PROTECTION CAGES are necessary to save your young American chestnuts from deer and rabbit depredations. We prefer to make our cages from 2 x 4 inch grid, 4- and 5-foot tall weldwire (sometimes called dogwire). You can cut 7 cages from a 50 foot roll.  When constructing cages, it is best to bend only 3 wires, with the middle wire bent in the opposite direction to the wires at the top and bottom. This way, cages can be easily moved, as needed. We use five-foot cages to protect the leader of shorter seedlings and grafts; we change to 4-foot cages once the leader is 7 feet tall. The strongest stakes for cages are 4-foot rebar, but half-inch conduit is lighter-weight for carrying into plots and also cheaper. Running deer may crash into cages, destroying them, if they are not decorated with bright flagging.


From nuts and seedlings I have planted over the past 20 years, I count 258 surviving American chestnuts. Only 6 of these are big enough to take care of themselves. The rest require regular attention through the growing season to keep them in full sun and free from the competition of other plants, to minimize insect damage, and nip all other problems at the bud. My experience with setbacks, natural and unnatural disasters is the source for most of our recommendations to growers. Thus, I read your reports with sympathy, I appreciate your efforts (often in spite of the evidence), and I always hope to be able to help.

As of 12/12/05, we have received 168 reports of 5,455 surviving ACCF chestnuts. If yours is not among these, please send your report via our Web site or on the reverse side of your Cooperating Grower's Agreement form. Your numbers will be added the tally above. Last winter, we sent out 2,737 seednuts and 8,595 seedlings to cooperating growers.


I have 36 new grafts, representing 30% success overall for 2004, but as usual, the results varied greatly among the different plots.  Many losses at the Airport and Scion Bank were caused by tiny ants colonizing the new grafts inside their shelters and eating the buds. This might be avoided in the future by sprinkling Diazinon on the soil surrounding each graft. Most other losses I attribute to bad luck in timing the graft: on certain dates nearly everything grew, while during one whole week everything failed. Thus, some plots had success higher than 60%, while others obtained less than 20%. I have altogether 117 surviving grafts and Carl Mayfield has 92. We look forward to your grafting reports and observations.

BLIGHT RESISTANCE TESTING begins in May, when blight-free American chestnuts that are 1.5 inches in diameter at breast height can be inoculated with a known killing strain of the blight fungus. Then, the following May we measure the size and depth of the blight canker and compare it against the standard developed by Gary Griffin. About a dozen (Miles x Ruth) F2 grafts were large enough this year; but unfortunately, well before May, none were blight-free. Keen to begin testing something, I chose Ed Greenwell's Nathan Pease nutgraft, although it was only one inch dbh. We are looking forward to May 2005 results.


Many thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation for very generous support of our project, in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA-Forest Service and Virginia Tech, to establish and test in forest plots ACCF all-American chestnuts.

Last winter, the Blacksburg Ranger District cleared the area in the Jefferson National Forest which they had cut for the Pandapas plot to test a first generation intercross (Th x J). We have marked 10 rows with 10 foot spacing down the mountainside in this east-facing cove. We prepare each hole thus: cut and pull roots, dig 18 inch hole, mix a tablespoon of Diazinon in the fill and replace it, push an 8 to 10 inch cylinder 2 to 3 inches down in the center of the planting place, install a tree mat (Forestry Suppliers, Inc.) and a staked, 5 -foot tall protection cage, hung with pink flagging to keep deer from crashing into cages. Our yield from 2003 controlled pollinations was so disappointing, we only had 12 nuts to plant (in the cylinders) here last winter. Seven have survived, and we planted an additional row of volunteer seedlings, of which 8 survive. These volunteers are from American chestnuts that are not blight resistant; we will use them for grafting stock to include the parent trees in the same plot with their progeny, for test purposes. This past June and July, hoping for enough seed to fill out plantings this winter, we pollinated each flower 3 times at 5 day intervals, instead of the usual two times.

In the Lesesne State Forest, Nelson County, in the area newly cleared by the VDF, we planted two and a half long rows by direct-seeding as above, with several different controlled intercrosses, F2 and F1. This new planting has 28(VT2 x G4), 21(NCC x J), 2(F x G4), 5(Ruth x F) and 2 Pacman. Also surviving in the other parts of this plot from past years' planting are 102(Miles x Ruth) and 12 additional F1 intercrosses. From past years' grafts 16 survive, along with 16 new grafts, mostly F2 but also some parent trees. In May, we inoculated blight cankers on seven of the F2 grafts with hypovirulence. In June, Gary applied Subdue fungicide drench in two areas where seedlings or grafts have died from a root rot. We cannot increase the Lesesne plantings until the Phytophthora or other root-rot pathogen is under control.

At Turkey Run we have 24 F2 grafts and 3 F2 seedlings. We have inoculated the first blight cankers on six of these grafts. Altogether, we now have 18 (Miles x Ruth) F2 grafts under integrated management: blight-resistant all-Americans on ideal sites managed for American chestnut, with their first blight cankers inoculated with select hypovirulent strains of the blight fungus. Our largest F2 graft (20 ft) is at the Airport; it made 2 female flowers which we pollinated with JEB.


Wayne Bowman of the Virginia Department of Forestry and Ed Leonard, Silviculturist of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, for invaluable cooperation and assistance in research plots.

Jenny, Lizzy & Lise Cooper, and Vicky Lewis for harvesting most of our 2003 seednuts. They held the pruning poles last fall.

John Buschmann, for contributions too numerous to cite toward ACCF progress in the research at the Lesesne State Forest, and Frieda for pitching in with the dirty work.

Ken James, no relation to Jesse, for his work at Chestnut Hill. In July, Gary and I visited Ken to look over his American chestnut restoration project. He has 38 surviving grafts and 271 seedlings growing on ideal, rich chestnut land in the severe upstate NY climate. This is a great test site. To create his chestnut plots, he cut the big timber himself. In addition to ACCF stock, his collection includes some good-looking native NY chestnuts. Considering the quality and scope of Ken's work at Chestnut Hill, we are amazed.

Carl Mayfield, for regular generous support of ACCF research, outstanding grafting and an extensive, well-documented American chestnut restoration project.

Violet Pesinkowski, for regular, very generous support of ACCF research.

Douglas Buege, for volunteer labor in ACCF research plots, carrying bales of weldwire, preparing terrain, cutting trees and weeds.

By taking on the job of restoring American chestnuts in the forests, we accept a huge environmental challenge. This year, we are pleased to welcome many new cooperating growers from the National Wild Turkey Federation. We need as many hands as possible to make the long-term commitment and share the hard work. Cutting trees, weeding, digging planting holes, constructing cages, driving stakes, planting or grafting, you may be tired, dirty and sweating, but nevertheless very happy to look upon your work and give thanks that you are still able to do this work. The possibility of an American chestnut grove is worth it.

Respectfully submitted,

Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors

Gary Griffin, President, Professor of Forest Pathology, Virginia Tech

Dave McCurdy, Vice-president,  Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV

John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Research Chemist, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord College, WV

William Pilkington, Treasurer, Financial Advisor, Ghent, WV

Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts


American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation

2003 Newsletter

Dear Friends and Cooperating Growers:


We are late figuring the seedling cost this year because we lost money on last year's distribution. Also, we have learned that most seedlings sent outside West Virginia are in the mails for as long as 2 weeks, even those going across the river to Ohio. Seedlings now cost $40  per bundle of 50; for bundles of 25 or fewer, the cost is $23.

We highly recommend that all growers who do not plan to pick up their seedlings (see below, Open House) and do not live in West Virginia consider requesting Priority mailing. Priority costs an additional $10 per bundle. When you write your check payable to ACCF, please remember to add your contribution for 2003 ($20) to the research that supports these distributions.

The nursery has designated only 4,500 seedlings for ACCF growers this year, so it is best to send your orders in early.


1. The West Virginia Forest Tree Nursery where they harvest the nuts and then grow the American chestnut seedlings which we have been distributing since 1989, will hold an open house for ACCF growers on Saturday, December 6, from 10 to 12 a.m.

The nursery is located about 10 miles north of Point Pleasant, WV, in Lakin, near the Ohio River, on Route 62.

Please note in your order, if you plan to pick up your seedlings at that time.  We can send you a list of motels within a 10 mile radius of the nursery upon request.

Come and meet Dave McCurdy, John Elkins, and (weather permitting) Ed Greenwell, ask questions and discuss your growing problems and solutions.

2. The Airport Research Plot near Virginia Tech in Blacksburg is the place where we hold spring grafting lessons; there we are making another demonstration of integrated management for chestnut blight control. We also have about 2 dozen tiny volunteer chestnut seedlings which may be dug up and taken home. Lucille can meet you at 10 a.m. on November 8. Please request directions to avoid being late to this open house. Security requires locking the gate after entering.


The first symptom of a Phytophthora infection is premature yellowing leaves, followed by browning leaves and then death of the stem. When the seedling is dug up, a brownish-black decay is evident on the fine roots and the structural roots. Unlike chestnut blight, Phytophthora offers no second chance because it kills the roots as well as the top.

The ultimate defense is to plant in sandy, well-drained soils, avoid low-lying and flat land (unless the soil is sandy), and also, avoid old fields in the Piedmont.  In cases where the soils are ordinarily well-drained but are heavy in texture, unusually wet conditions can slow the drainage to create a Phytophthora problem.

If the disease is diagnosed in its early stages, it can be controlled with a fungicide drench (Ridomil or Subdue) applied following the manufacturer's directions. This is an expensive and labor-intensive solution which we recommend only where the planting site is ordinarily well-drained but held water longer than usual because of extremely heavy and frequent rains.

If you have a Phytophthora problem: put the dead seedlings directly into garbage bags and send them to the landfill; seed the planting holes with grass to contain spread of the pathogen, and do not replant American chestnuts there, or nearby downhill from the Phytophthora-infested area.


They make tunnels in field and forest, feeding on insect grubs, worms and roots, and like many other creatures they fancy American chestnuts.

With no voles in the neighborhood, you can protect direct-seeded chestnuts with a tree shelter about 10 inches tall, driven two inches into the soil and staked in place. The nut is planted no more than an inch down and covered with peat moss, and the shelter is surrounded by a 5 foot tall weldwire cage to protect against raccoon, rabbit and deer.

Voles simply undermine this defense and eat the chestnut root as it emerges below the shelter barrier. The control recommended for commercial orchards presumes an ability to visit the plot daily; if you may be able to do this, then contact your County Agent for help. Other possible courses of action include planting daffodil bulbs (which are poison) in a wide circle around each chestnut and/or mixing ground glass around and below each chestnut. More vole control suggestions are most welcome.


This year a National Wild Turkey Federation grant of $5,000 continues support for planting second generation all-Americans (F2s) and making grafts of them to test their blight resistance and to establish two seed orchards on public lands.

For part of this project, we cooperate with the Virginia Department of Forestry in the Lesesne State Forest. In February, they cleared an additional acre or so to make more space for planting & grafting. This past November and March, in last year's planting rows, we filled the empty places by direct-seeding. This September, I counted 112 F2 seedlings there, (Miles x Ruth) and (Ruth x Miles). Although three of the seedlings are 6 foot tall and three are 5 foot tall, the majority grew very little this year because of intense weed competition (over 8 feet tall) and a non-lethal virus infection on the leaves.

The grafts of these F2s in several sites number 54, but they represent only 40 individuals, and of these it appears that only 5 may be large enough to begin blight resistance testing in May 2004, while the others will need at least one more growing season to reach the required diameter of 1.5 inches at breast height.

The test for blight resistance includes inoculation with a killing strain of the blight fungus, after which the canker growth is measured over a 2-year period.

Our new seed orchards are under development in cooperation with the USDA-FS, Blacksburg Ranger District. The Craigs Creek project now has 22 grafts and 5 seedlings, all from the same controlled pollination (above). While 7 of them are over 12 ft tall, we did not plan to use these grafts for resistance testing, but instead, to put them under integrated management as soon as they are naturally infected by blight.

The final step in integrated management involves regularly checking for blight and inoculating the first blight cankers (on resistant individuals) with hypovirulent strains of the blight fungus selected from the research cultures at Virginia Tech. In May, we inoculated with hypovirulent strains the first three F2 grafts to be infected with blight, in 2 other test plots.

In our Poverty Creek project, the Forest Service has cut less than an acre in a mesic, east-facing cove site where we shall begin direct-seeding this November to establish a new breeding line with different parent trees.


Recently there has been a great deal of public interest in searching for additional American chestnuts which appear to have survived the blight and therefore might be useful to programs breeding for blight resistance.

While this is a worthy project, our limited personnel and resources are fully employed and often working overtime.  We cannot take time off to check out a discovery unless the American chestnut is growing in heavy blight territory, not on the periphery of the natural range, in a forest setting, at an altitude over 3,000 feet, and it is over 10 inches in diameter at breast height with visible blight, but no serious crown damage.

No doubt there are numerous survivors which miss the above description by only one or a few criteria and are therefore well worth the effort of saving the genes for future testing and breeding. This could be done best by nutgrafting. Those interested will find a detailed description of how to make nut grafts in Ed Greenwell's paper at:


This was a mediocre year for me. I have just 25 new grafts, including two that were made by Jenny Cooper. Overall a total of 125 of my grafts survive on 9 different sites. Carl Mayfield reports a total of 50 ACCF nutgrafts, which includes 30 new nutgrafts this year.

Burnie & Essie Burnworth attended April grafting lessons and have reported 4 of their grafts at Stronghold, MD, are growing well.

Grafting invitation:  learn chestnut-grafting techniques at Virginia Tech in April of 2004, by appointment on a morning of your choice.  This invitation is open to all growers who send an additional donation to support ACCF research.  Please respond  in February, suggest two dates (from which I could choose one) and indicate how many grafts you plan to attempt, so that we may have enough scionwood to share with you.


If you followed our recommendation to plant on well-drained sites, 2003 was a great growing year throughout the East.

I have counted 191 survivors, and my tallest from a 2002 nut direct-seeded is 2 feet!  A few of my 2- and 3-year-olds have doubled their height. While our Western growers hauled water, we pulled weeds and cut competing trees. American chestnut seedlings hardly ever succeed without a good deal of work.

Ed's Nathan Pease American chestnut is still looking good, but my graft of it will not be large enough to begin its blight-resistance test until 2005.

Thanks very much for reporting! We have so far received reports from 114 growers of 4,166 ACCF chestnuts surviving in 2003. Sometimes I wonder if everyone understands that total of ACCF seedlings surviving means the grand total for all years plantings. We accept additions and corrections. Late reports will be added to the above numbers as they are received.

This past year we sent 7,627 seedlings and 6,917 seednuts to cooperating growers in 37 states and Ontario.


We are expecting a smaller crop of seednuts here in Virginia because of the very heavy and frequent rains during pollination time. Each grower may request 15 nuts, but we will probably run out of seed earlier than we did last winter (January 21).

I did not put many control bags in the Miles and Ruth grafts, thus many more of their open pollinated nuts may go out to our most reliable, reporting growers.
Looking out our dining room window, I saw female flowers  in our Pie chestnut's crown.  In between rains, I tossed into its upper branches the catkins leftover from this year's controlled crosses. These father trees may give this year's Pie nuts many more interesting possibilities, so they also will go only to our growers who have reported.


We have awarded the graduate student, Eric Hogan, a research scholarship in memory of my father, a self-educated man who knew and loved the trees, all the Latin as well as common names, and was a great believer in education and hard work.  With this scholarship we recognize Eric's contribution to American chestnut research through long hours of careful work in the laboratory.


Many thanks again to John Buschmann, John Buschmann, Jr, and the Jones Family for pitching in and supporting our work in the Lesesne State Forest.

Once again, Violet Pesinkowski (NY) and Carl Mayfield (VA) have been extremely generous in support of the graduate student research at Virginia Tech.

Mark Depoy, Mammoth Cave National Park, (KY) was responsible for  planting 2,000 additional ACCF seedlings in our National Parks.

Thanks to Jason Kramer for engaging Biology and Botany students at Yough High School in a large project, raising American chestnuts from seed, planting them on Pennsylvania State Game Land and sending us an A+ report.

Thanks to John Knouse, who once again sponsored and manned an ACCF booth at an environmental fair in Athens, Ohio, we have many additional Ohio growers. And Laurie Spangler set up an ACCF exhibit at the Mill Mountain Zoo near Roanoke, VA.

Ken James (NY) continues his efforts to maintain and expand the largest American chestnut forest revival project outside Virginia.

Charles Lytton, (VA) Giles County 4-H Leader, continues work with area school children, organizing help for harvest at the Martin American Chestnut Planting, as well as  spring field trips to area chestnut-growing projects involving the children in planting, maintenance and reporting; he also distributes seednuts to school growing projects.

We now have over 1,000 on the mailing list and look forward to news about all those American chestnuts.

Respectfully submitted,

 Lucille Griffin, Executive Director

Other ACCF Directors
 Gary Griffin, President,  Virginia Tech Forest Pathology
 Dave McCurdy, Vice-president, Superintendent, Clements State Tree Nursery, WV
 John Rush Elkins, Secretary, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Concord College, Research Chemist, Beckley, WV
 William Pilkington, Treasurer, ChFC, Cool Ridge, WV
 Ed Greenwell, Director of Tennessee chestnut projects, Electrical Engineer, Cookeville, TN


Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

American Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation
 excerpt from the 2002 Newsletter


Since the majority of you are new members, let us introduce two deceased founding fathers, Al Dietz and Bruce Given, West Virginians whose dedication to American Chestnut restoration made possible the Lesesne project and our breeding program for blight resistance. Al was an industrial chemist; Bruce worked for the West Virginia Division of Forestry. Well before the ACCF was founded, they were collecting American chestnuts, together and for separate projects.

Al took large quantities of American chestnut seed to be irradiated, with the hope of inducing mutations favorable to blight resistance. He made plantations of these seedlings in cooperation with landowners throughout the East. The Lesesne is his largest plantation; the Virginia Tech airport plot is among his smallest. Stronghold, Inc. in Maryland, a new 2002 ACCF member, is also a legacy of Al Dietz. We were able to test very few of his trees (all at the Virginia Tech airport, but just a small number at the Lesesne) for blight resistance and found only a few at the Lesesne with low levels of blight resistance.

Al also discovered the Gault chestnut in Ohio, a grandparent on both sides of our F2 cross, Miles x Ruth, with the best chance right now to breed true for blight resistance.

Bruce Given was most interested in finding American chestnuts with possible blight resistance and grafting them into Chinese chestnut stocks to make all-American chestnut breeding possible and to assemble an American chestnut collection at a West Virginia tree nursery.  Because of his nursery collections, we can distribute American chestnut seedlings at cost to our members.  Bruce spent years refining bark grafting techniques, especially for American chestnut replication; his work made our all-American chestnut breeding program possible.

Bruce grafted the blight-resistant chestnuts (1980) in the Lesesne, into the stocks of some of Al's trees which were blight-susceptible; he make the big chestnut grafts which have become the first demonstration within the natural range of a high level of chestnut blight control.  Bruce taught John Elkins to graft chestnuts, and John taught me.  We are fortunate to follow in their footsteps.

Dedicated to the restoration of American chestnuts

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