Nothing says "Thanksgiving"
quite like Chestnuts!
Native American Chestnut trees were nearly wiped out by fungal blight in the early 20th century, but thanks to much research into resistant hybrids, the American Chestnut tree is making a hardy comeback.
Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, a plant breeder in NC, pioneered much of the research. He developed many crosses between the imported Chinese Chestnut & the native American Chestnuts. His work is a trademarked name brand under which many of those same hybrids are still marketed. Read more here.
These new American-Chinese hybrids are superior in size, nut quality, and production to most any American or Chinese chestnuts. They are superior in taste to any European chestnuts. And they are more disease resistant than the original native American chestnut, though a few native survivors are being found in recent years.
WHAT WE RECOMMEND
There are several excellent varieties of previously patented hybrids that are hardy in this area of Florida: Willamette, Carpenter, Revival, and Auburn Leader are a few.
We favor the Willamette for its super sized nuts and high genetic resistance to the chestnut bark blight, and the Revival or the Carpenter as close seconds for pollination.
Looking more like a martian than a piece of food,
here's a newly ripe chestnut still lying in the husk
Chestnut trees need cross pollination from a second tree to produce a good crop of nuts.
Grafted trees need a second (different) cultivar to pollinate. Because seedling trees are each genetically different, they should readily pollinate each other but will exhibit some variances in nut sizes and ripening times. Grafted trees are generally preferred for commercial groves, but totally unnecessary for the home orchard or for wildlife plantings.
That said, chestnut grafting research is still in its infancy and grafts can fail after a few years for unknown reasons of incompatibility.
Chestnut trees are fast growing and can reach heights of 100' or more with time. They should be planted a minimum of 40' apart. Maximum distance for proper pollination is 100'.
Consistant irrigation is essential, though they like good drainage. Chestnuts grown in clay soils must have good drainage as they do not like to have their feet standing in water for even short periods. Chestnuts prefer slightly acidic soil at 5.5-6.5pH, and do not tolerate alkalinity at all.
Chestnuts start bearing nuts in only 3-5 years from seed. They produce 2000-4000lbs of nuts per acre. Nuts ripen in September and October.
The worst pest now affecting chestnuts in the US is the presence of chestnut weevils. They lay eggs in the ripening nuts, nuts fall to the ground, eggs hatch, larvae eat their way out of the nuts and then burrow into the ground.
YEA! FOR PERMACULTURE!
The best organic control that has been proven reasonably effective, is to use chickens or Guinea fowl in the orchard to eat the larvae. After several years of this control, few weevils remain! Read more here.
some young trees will branch more quickly:
Chestnuts are often planted in food plots to attract deer, but must be protected as young plants until established. Plastic tubes around the trunks or even tree shelters may be necessary.
Deer reportedly choose chestnut 100:1 over acorns.