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.

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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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