By Michael W. Potter, Extension Agent: Horticulture
The Chestnut tree was regarded as one of the most important foods and timber trees prior to early 1900. In 1904, a bark fungus was accidentally introduced and within 40 years, 30 million acres of trees were destroyed from Maine to Georgia and west of Mississippi. Fortunately, in the 1950’s, a living specimen was found among many dead trees. Specimens were sent to Dr. Robert T. Dunstan grafted the rootstock and cross-pollinated the trees with a few Chinese selections that were superior. After a few more crosses, the Dunstan Hybrids were formed and as a result, there have been no cases of the Dunstan Chestnuts dying from blight infections for over 30 years. The American and Chinese varieties are still sold, however, they are still affected by the blight.
The Dustan Chestnuts are highly prized by many, not only for the nuts but as great landscape trees. Probably the most excited are the deer hunters. The nuts are a highly sought after treat for deer. It has been said that deer would rather eat a chestnut over an acorn. The trees produce larger nuts than the Chinese and American varieties.
The trees will take 3-5 years to begin producing after they are planted. The nuts will readily fall free from the burrs for an easy harvest in the fall. The trees will reach heights of 50’ and the trunk will be 12-16” in diameter. The trees are widely adaptable and prefer a well-drained soil with pH between 5 & 7. For best production, plant more than one tree and space them about 35-40 feet apart. This will ensure good pollination and plenty of room to grow and develop over the lifespan of the trees.
If you are interested, we will have these trees at our Fruit & Nut tree sale January 27th. The pre-sale presentation begins at 8 a.m. The sale will begin at 9:00 am and will end at noon. Check out the list of all our plants and trees at www.mcmga.com. And BYOW, Bring Your Own Wagon if you can… we always have a line for our wagons!
Don’t forget to send your garden questions to Plant Answers at 9020 Airport Rd., Conroe TX 77303 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for supporting your Montgomery County Master Gardeners.