The American Chestnut Story – A WCLT Event

Did you know there is an American Chestnut tree breeding orchard in Westborough?

The Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) brings this fascinating story about the work that is being done there with this presentation at the WCLT’s annual meeting on June 12, 2023. Presenter Brad Smith joined the American Chestnut Foundation in the early 1990’s, upon spotting his first Chestnut in the wild after reading a National Geographic article about this new organization. He became a board member of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Chapter soon after its founding in 2000; he is a past president and remains a director. He has been involved in surveying, pollinating, planting, harvesting and crossbreeding Chestnuts for the last two decades. Brad has recently retired from teaching Latin for 35 years, and has lived in Westborough since 1988.

The sweeping Chestnut saga will be shared in this presentation, from the separation of the continents and the last glaciation to the current understanding of the Chestnut genome and advances in biotechnology. The story covers questions like: What happened to the American Chestnut, a former keystone species in the eastern woodlands? What is Chestnut blight, and how did the scientific community react when it was first discovered in 1901? How did a single pathogen cause an entire species to become functionally extinct? What progress has been made in trying to restore this “Sequoia of the East” and is there any hope of success?

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