Chestnut Collection

 Chestnut Collection - Am. Chestnut in flower-smaller

The American Chestnut Collection was originally established in 1998 through a partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation and a grant from the Maine Forest Service.

The purpose of this collection is two-fold. First, this native species, now extremely rare due to an imported fungus, is one of the most beautiful tree species found in Maine. This collection provides visitors an opportunity to experience through the seasons the outstanding visual cycles this species presents. The early July flowering is the most spectacular display of any tree found in Maine. Seed design and abundance ranks as the most remarkable of any native Maine species. Leaf size, appearance and symmetry rivals all others and the fall bronze and yellow colors add beauty to any foliage presentation. Second, this collection plays a scientific, research and conservation role in keeping with The American Chestnut Foundations’ goal to restore this species to its native range within the woodlands of the eastern United States. Through a scientific research and breeding program developed by its founders in 1983, the Foundation conducts breeding at its research farms in Virginia, and coordinates satellite breeding programs in 16 state chapters to ensure genetic diversity and local adaptability. This collection represents one of these satellite efforts. The collection you see here is the largest assemblage of Maine sourced trees and it plays an essential role in the overall breeding effort to develop and propagate a blight-resistant variety of Chestnut.

The American chestnut had been a dominant tree in the forests of the eastern part of North America until the beginning part of last century.  The tree provided food for wildlife and people who harvested the nutritious nuts in fall in great quantities. It was the chestnut that was roasted in early America and eaten during Christmas. Wood from the tree is rot resistant and was used in almost every conceivable building application - from railroad ties and fences to building frames and fine furniture. In an ecological disaster that began in the 1800s, the trees were wiped out across their range, from Georgia to Maine in the US, by a fungus that was inadvertently introduced from Asia and first identified in 1904 in NYC.  By 1950, nearly every tree had succumbed.