Chestnuts are a delicious low-fat food, the grain that grows on a tree. Once upon a time, nearly one in four of the trees throughout the Appalachain area, from Maine to Georgia, was an American chestnut (Castanea dentata
). These trees provided bountiful crops of nuts every year, supporting people and livestock as well as wildlife. Then in a few decades in the 20th century, nearly all of these trees died as a result of a fungal blight brought into the country by a related chestnut species from China.
I just saw a surviving American chestnut tree in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. I was almost as excited as if I'd seen a passenger pigeon. I put the tree's owners in touch with the American Chestnut Foundation. http://www.acf.org
If you know of any surviving trees, contact the American Chestnut Foundation. C dentata
grows back from the roots after the main trunk dies from the blight, so it now survives as a shrub that tends to die back before it is big enough to bear nuts. Also, the ACF will soon be making blight-resistant trees available to the general public. If you live in an area that is not affected by the blight (such as Michigan or Wisconsin), you can even get wild-type chestnuts for planting.