This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info: guerinw@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chestnuts in Ann Arbor

Most people are unfamiliar with chestnut trees. It's a sad, sad story. There was once an extensive  ecosystem in the eastern United States known as the chestnut-oak forest. And then a disease came over from 'Eurasia' and wiped out the chestnuts, and it did such a thorough job that basically all that remains are occasional stump sprouts. Unlike with the case of elms, the sprouts never grow large enough to produce viable seed so there is no chance that our native chestnut will out-evolve the fungal pathogen.

But the chinese chestnut (Castanea mollisima) survived just fine, thank you very much, and you'll sometimes see it planted locally as an ornamental. The one in the photograph is across Fourth Ave from the Farmers Market. When the flowers fully open, as I expect they will next week, the 'fragrance' is quite strong. I think I like it. It must have been an overpowering experience in the forests prior to the blight. And have you ever tried to handle the uber-spiny shell of a chestnut fruit? Yikes!! Did the indigenous 'Americans' really run around barefoot? Double yikes!! Things was sure different back then.

Don't confuse true chestnuts with the horse-chestnut, which is a close relative of the buckeye. No relation except for spiny husk. True chestnuts have a simple leaf resembling that of a beech, but considerably bigger.

And DO go back to that first month of my posts for a walking tour of the trees around Kerrytown and the Farmers' Market. Chestnut included.

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