Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
American chestnut tree planted on Capitol grounds
FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 28, 2006) - A long and painstaking campaign to re-establish the once mighty American chestnut tree progressed a bit more today when LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, planted an American chestnut on the Capitol grounds.
The American chestnut, once the defining tree of hardwood forests in eastern North America, was ravaged and nearly eliminated by an Asian fungus. Unwittingly allowed into this country in imported trees in the early 1900s, the blight spread quickly. By 1940, nearly all of Kentucky’s American chestnuts were gone.
"The American chestnut was once a central part of life in Kentucky and was used for everything from railroad ties to telephone poles," said Secretary Wilcher. "The reforestation of this tree is important not only to Kentucky forests but also to Kentucky’s culture."
Today there is an effort to re-establish the American chestnut in Kentucky. Scientists are cross breeding American chestnuts with Chinese chestnuts, which are naturally resistant to the blight. The tree planted today is a clone of a blight-resistant chestnut President Bush planted on the White House lawn last year.
"In an era when so many of Kentucky’s forests are threatened with destruction by exotic insects and diseases, it is encouraging that we are on the verge of restoring the American chestnut," said Rex Mann, president of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation. "The planting of this tree demonstrates that by using science and sound management we can restore the health of Kentucky’s woodlands."
One of the few surviving American chestnuts is in Adair County. The Kentucky Division of Forestry is involved with its manual pollination. Its seeds are collected each fall and sent to the University of Kentucky for propagation.