Posts Tagged ‘blight’

Chestnut Trees Preserved As Wood Art

August 22nd, 2011
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chestnut-wood-202x300 [Photo Credit:  Wikipedia]

Prior to 1904, Chestnut trees played a huge part in American history, providing a major source of food and shelter until, according to Wikipedia, chestnut blight was first announced in New York.  “Within 40 years, the near four billion strong American Chestnut population in North America was devastated … Today, they only survive as single trees separated from any others (very rare), and as living stumps, or ‘stools’, with only a few growing enough shoots to produce seeds shortly before dying.”

Today, The American Chestnut Foundation has as its mission: “.. to restore the American chestnut tree to its native range within the woodlands of the eastern United States, using a scientific research and breeding program developed by its founders. The American Chestnut Foundation is restoring a species – and in the process, creating a template for restoration of other tree and plant species. 

In 2005, we harvested our first potentially blight-resistant chestnuts. We are now in a phase of rigorous testing and trial, in both forest and orchard settings. It is our confident expectation that we will one day restore the chestnut to our eastern forests.  The return of the American chestnut to its former niche in the Appalachian hardwood forest ecosystem is a major restoration project that requires a multi-faceted effort involving 6,000 members & volunteers, research, sustained funding and most important, a sense of the past and a hope for the future.”  According to the Foundation website, scientists are working to engineer a tree with American Chestnut characteristics from the blight resistant Asian Chestnut.

Meanwhile, Americans are cherishing the last remnants of the original American Chestnut trees.   Recently, Joanie Cradick, in an article for the Lincoln Journal Star, reported that “Nearly 110 years after the fungal blight … members of the Great Plains Woodturners Club in Lincoln are working with wood salvaged from four dead chestnut trees at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City …. Some of the turned items will be selected for permanent display at the Nebraska Forest Service headquarters on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus and at Arbor Lodge Park.”

Working with the wood is a bit of a challenge.  The wood is durable, but “tends to split and warp more the older it is harvested” according to Wikipedia.  In fact, according to the Lincoln Journal Star article, Great Plains Woodturners’ club president, Terry Salvage said …”it was a strong wood that he would call ‘loose-grained’ … The fibers are a little farther apart, which makes it a little more difficult to turn.”  Some club members use “super glue to seal the cracks”. Cyanoacrylates, or super glues, are often used by woodworkers to fill cracks, repair splits, reattach splintered wood pieces, and even as a finishing coat on the entire wood artifact and would be especially useful when working with these treasured remnants from the American Chestnut tree!

Woodturning is an art, and in this case, a very important art, indeed, as it is preserving a little bit of American environmental history that might otherwise be lost forever.