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Letter: The Woodbridge Chestnut Orchard

It has been 10 years since the onset of the Woodbridge chestnut orchard. The program is a cooperative effort of the town of Woodbridge, the Woodbridge Land Trust, and the American Chestnut foundation. The Orchard is located on the Fitzgerald property. It is one a half acres in size and fenced to keep the predatory deer out. Many people have stopped me and asked why so many of the trees have been cut down. We started with 434 nuts and now have 15 trees remaining.

The purpose of the Orchard was to use hybrid nuts combining American characteristics and Chinese resistance to the chestnut blight. The trees that were planted were 94% American and 6% Chinese in their genetic makeup. Over the past 2 years the trees have been assessed for resistance to the blight both naturally occurring and 2 strains which were injected into each tree. The remaining trees showed the best resistance although all of them had some sign of fungal blight.

Our plan is to let the remaining trees open air pollinate and then to collect the nuts. These nuts will be used in seed orchards to attempt to find the best resistant trees. These trees will then be used to introduce the chestnut tree back into the environment.

For those who are interested in the American chestnut foundation program, I urge you to go to the TACF website for further information and a more complete history of the program.

Philip B. Arnold MD

Orchard Manager

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