Meg Young

The Parklands American Chestnut Restoration Project

If you’ve been to The Parklands more than a few times, you’ve probably noticed at least one of our gated off tree groves in Broad Run Park and Beckley Creek Park. These groves are part of an ongoing project to help revive the American chestnut tree. These trees once covered much of eastern North America but were wiped out in the early 20th century by a blight and is considered one of the greatest ecological disasters of that century.

With help from several partners, including The Gibbs Foundation, Woody Warehouse, and The American Chestnut Foundation, we are working to restore this majestic tree to its former prominence. The American Chestnut Project at The Parklands could not be accomplished without their help. Our groves, funded by the Gibbs Foundation, where these trees receive the best care our staff can provide is just one portion of the much larger picture. Each year, we harvest any chestnuts successfully grown in these two groves, as well as several “research” chestnuts sent to us from the American Chestnut Foundation, and send them to Woody Warehouse in Lizton, Indiana.

From there, Woody Warehouse will germinate the chestnuts and grow them into saplings until they are large enough to return to our care. Once we purchase these saplings back from Woody Warehouse, we will use them to replace any American chestnut trees in our grove that did not survive as well as throughout the park.

By purchasing saplings that were once chestnuts grown and harvested in The Parklands, we ensure the trees are given their best chance at thriving in their environment. Because they were harvested locally, these saplings are already adapted to the local environment and are prepared for many of the challenges it may face. Combined with the great maintenance and care these trees receive from Parklands staff, they are given their best chance at continuing to grow and spread long after us.

Each year, The Parklands Horticulture & Natural Areas team continues this cycle of harvesting chestnuts, sending them off to be germinated and grown to saplings, and buying back previously harvested chestnuts to be planted in our groves and parks. With each generation, we hope to see healthier, stronger American chestnut trees that will become the root of the restoration of this ecologically and culturally significant tree.