The Chestnut Tree: Bringing Back an American Icon

A SUNY research scientist is engineering a brand new "blight resistant" American chestnut tree after tens of millions were wiped out because of a fungus brought to the US from Asia in the early 1900's.

Tens of millions of American Chestnut trees were wiped out during the 20th Century. Some call it the “worst environmental disaster to strike the United States – ever.” How did that happen? An Asian Chestnut tree was imported to the US in the early 1900’s and with it carried a fungus that decimated the American version which had no tolerance. Nothing could save the American Chestnut tree.
In fact, the Chestnut Tree was a critical part of American life for the early settlers. Trade and commerce were an integral part of an ecosystem dependent on the American Chestnut Tree – from cradle to grave. As the tree died, so too, did a way of life that never recovered.

Scientists, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, are  now working on a brand new solution — a genetically engineered blight resistant tree. If the science works (and researchers are very hopeful), and the US Government approves, the Chestnut Tree will be slowly re-introduced into forests along the Eastern seaboard — making it the first functionally extinct species — ever — to be resuscitated on planet Earth!

By Richard Sergay

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