The American Chestnut is a long-lived, large deciduous tree that was once one of the most important trees in eastern U.S. forests, for both wildlife and lumber. Researchers have estimated that 1 out of every 4 trees in the Appalachian Mountains was an American chestnut.
The nuts are encased in a round spiny casing and the flowers appear on 6-8 inch catkins. American Chestnuts were the staple food crop for many wildlife species historically found in Eastern Kentucky, including black bears, turkey, squirrels, deer, and a large number of birds (because of their reliable annual mast crop). This tree was also a prolific food source for humans and livestock.
American Chestnut wood is valued for its rot-resistance and was often used to make homes, barns, furniture, railroad ties, fence posts, and musical instruments. In the early 1900s, this tree was decimated by a blight introduced from Asia, and by the 1960s the American Chestnut was virtually gone in its native range.
Images courtesy of:
American Chestnut Foundation
Richard Gardner, bugwood.com