In December 2013, Arlington County Forester Vincent Verweij supervised the planting of 20 American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) saplings in a number of locations in the county. The saplings, which had been grown at the Earth Sangha nursery in Springfield, were planted in small groups at Benjamin Banneker Park, Bluemont Park, Fort C.F. Smith, Fort Scott, Glencarlyn Park, Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers, and an experimental site along Route 50. They represented a tangible hope that the iconic American tree might be restored to areas in which it once thrived. (See the February 5, 2014, ARMN in Action post for the original story.)
As the second anniversary of the chestnut planting approached, Verweij checked on all the planting sites to evaluate how they had fared in the past two years. Here are his notes (and photos) from his visits:
Benjamin Banneker: One survivor, doing great!
Bluemont: One survivor. Got chomped by deer, but still alive.
Fort C.F. Smith: Could not find surviving trees, but it was not an ideal spot for chestnuts. Did find one twig that appeared to be American Chestnut, without life on it.
Fort Scott: Could not find any either. Also hard to investigate.
Glencarlyn: Found one survivor. Doing well, but heavily foraged. Gives me some hope that some of the insects that coevolved with chestnuts are still around. More heavily foraged than anything around it.
Gulf Branch: At least one survivor, doing well.
Long Branch: Could not find any surviving trees. Hard to investigate the site.
Route 50: Mowed over, despite putting in stakes. Figured this would happen, but it was worth a shot.
Verweij pointed out that the the discovery of 4 surviving trees out of 20 planted was “about as good/bad as I expected, to be honest.” His findings seem to validate the dispersed-planting strategy that was used back in 2013. Dispersal, apparently, did create a variety of growing conditions that allowed some of the pioneering saplings to be successful.
Fingers (leaves?) crossed for the survivors!