My favorite news story this week is this one.
The Macon Telegraph reports that a 45 foot tall American chestnut has been found, thriving, on Pine Mountain in FDR State Park, just a quarter-mile from one of the former President’s favorite fishing holes.
As late as the 19th century a canopy of chestnuts, up to 100 feet tall, covered the American east. It was said a squirrel could travel from Maine to Georgia in those days without ever touching the ground. And we all recall the Longfellow poem beginning, "Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands…" The trees could live for 300 years.
The American chestnut was wiped-out a century ago by an Asian chestnut blight, and scientists have been trying for decades to cross-breed a blight-resistant strain. They’re supported by activists from around the country, including Georgia (from which the image is taken) So far, the best they’ve come up with is a tree that is 15/16th American.
The secret here may just be the soil. But if the tree itself is resistant, it could become the mother of all botanical finds.
And wouldn’t it be amazing if it turned out nature beat science out in creating a truly resistant American chestnut tree?