THE DUNSTAN CHESTNUT

Castanea dentata X mollissima

          


THE MOST IMPORTANT TREE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
The American chestnut was the most important food and timber trees species in the Eastern hardwood forest. It was almost completely destroyed by a bark fungus accidentally introduced from the Orient in 1904. Within 40 years, over 30 million acres of chestnut trees were killed from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi. This tragedy was arguably the largest ecological disaster in American history.
 
The chestnut was an amazingly useful tree: its plentiful nuts were eaten by people and wildlife, its beautiful, rot-resistant lumber was used for everything from furniture to fence posts, and its tannin was used in the tanning industry. The loss of the chestnut, at the time of the Great Depression, had a devastating effect on the people and wildlife of the Appalachian mountains. The economic loss from the chestnut's demise amounted to untold millions of dollars.


THE RETURN OF THE CHESTNUT


            

In the early 1950s, James Carpentar of Salem, Ohio, discovered a large living American chestnut in a grove of dead and dying trees. A member of the Northern Nut Growers Association, Carpentar was very impressed with the tree as it showed no evidence of blight infection. Over the next several years, he inoculated the tree with active blight spores and mycelia, but failed to induce any infection in the tree.

Carpentar sent budwood to Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, a fellow member of NNGA and well-known plant breeder in Greensboro, N.C. Dunstan grafted the scions onto chestnut rootstock and the trees grew well. He cross-pollinated the American grafts with a mixture of 3 superior USDA released Chinese chestnut selections: "Kuling," "Meiling," and "Nanking."


THE DUNSTAN CHESTNUT
Castanea dentata X mollissima

In 1962, seedling trees from the first cross began to bear. Selecting the individuals with the most hybrid characteristics, Dr. Dunstan crossed them back to the American and Chinese parent trees. The resulting second generation was moved to Alachua in north central Florida, on our nursery property, where the trees have been growing and bearing every year for almost 50 years! 

In 1984 we planted a second grove of 500 trees using both grafts and seedling Dunstans, and many are now over 50' tall and 12-16" in diameter. These Dunstan Hybrid Chestnuts show a combination of American and Chinese traits. They are healthy, vigorous, and bear heavily every year. We have chosen several cultivars that have the very best combination of nut and tree characteristics. The Dunstan Chestnuts are the first chestnuts to ever receive U.S. Plant Patents.





The blight-resistant Dunstan Chestnuts make possible the re-establishment of chestnut trees and chestnut orchards in America.


RESISTANT TO CHESTNUT BLIGHT

There has not been a single reported instance of Dunstan Chestnuts dying of blight infection in over 30 years. This includes research and breeding programs as well as the many other locations where the Dunstan Chestnuts have been grown throughout the nation.

Dunstan Chestnuts have been tested for resistance by inoculation with blight. No significant canker formation was observed for 4 years. Limited growth of the blight cankers was seen on only a few trees and, in most cases, the inoculation wound healed completely.

Reports from growers at over 2,000 locations around the U.S., from New England to Michigan, south to Florida and Texas and the Pacific Coast have shown that the Dunstan Chestnuts have excellent survival, growth and nut production in a variety of climates, from Zones 5-9.



        

High Rock Farm in Greensboro, NC - 12-15 years old, average production 52 lbs/tree!


Many chestnuts sold in the U.S. are not blight resistant, such as seedling American chestnuts, or European x Japanese hybrids. Blight resistance is extremely important, even in areas that currently do not have blight. Accidental outbreak can destroy susceptible trees. In blighted areas (most of the U.S.), only blight-resistant trees will produce.


      


OUR NUTS ARE BIGGER!
Dunstan Chestnuts produce heavy yearly crops of very large and sweet-tasting nuts. The nuts average 15-35 nuts/lb, as compared to Chinese nuts (35-100/lb) and American nuts (75-150/lb). They are much better tasting than imported European nuts and are never bland or bitter. The nuts peel easily, unlike imports, that have clinging and ingrown pellicles (seed coats). The nuts ripen in September and October and most fall free from the burrs for easy harvesting.  Dunstan Chestnuts can produce nuts in only 3-5 years after planting.

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