By Susan Freinkel

ISBN-10: 0520247302

ISBN-13: 9780520247307

The yankee chestnut used to be certainly one of America's commonest, valued, and liked trees--a ''perfect tree'' that governed the forests from Georgia to Maine. yet within the early 20th century, an unique plague swept throughout the chestnut forests with the strength of a wildfire. inside 40 years, the blight had killed on the subject of 4 billion bushes and left the species teetering near to extinction. It was once one of many worst ecological blows to North the United States because the Ice Age--and one most pros thought of past fix. In American Chestnut, Susan Freinkel tells the dramatic tale of the obdurate optimists who refused to permit this cultural icon move. In a compelling weave of background, technological know-how, and private remark, she relates their quest to save lots of the tree via tools that ranged from classical plant breeding to state-of-the-art gene expertise. however the middle of her tale is the solid of unconventional characters who've fought for the tree for a century, undeterred through setbacks or skeptics, and fueled through their desires of restored forests and their strong affinity for a fellow species.

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The yankee chestnut was once one in all America's most typical, valued, and liked trees--a ''perfect tree'' that governed the forests from Georgia to Maine. yet within the early 20th century, an unique plague swept throughout the chestnut forests with the strength of a wildfire. inside 40 years, the blight had killed on the subject of 4 billion timber and left the species teetering on the point of extinction.

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Extra info for American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree

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They found 1,014 “points of infection,” ranging from a group of nursery trees imported from New Jersey to a single lesion on a wild chestnut in a forest. Every aVected tree was cut down and destroyed, and Metcalf directed that the site be monitored for the next several years. Metcalf knew what was riding on the outcome of the experiment. Failure ensured the loss of one of the country’s most important trees, a resource worth at least three to four hundred million dollars, or about nine billion dollars in today’s currency.

Members of the clan generally do not prey on living tissue; their appetites are limited to dead wood. This pest, on the other hand, was deWnitely a parasite with far more destructive habits, a point he tried to underscore in the name he chose for it: Diaporthe parasitica Murrill. (The classiWcation would prove controversial; within just a few years taxonomists would reassign the wily fungus to a diVerent genus of molds, Endothia. It would be reassigned yet one more time in 1978, when scientists decided that its true lineage was with the genus Cryphonectria.

He had determined that the fungus works beneath the cortex, the tough outer skin of the tree. It begins when spores gain entry into the vital space between the inner bark and the cambium, the thin layer of life-sustaining cells that carry water and nourishment from the roots to the branch tips of a tree. As the spores germinate, they extend tiny threadlike Wlaments that eventually weave together to form a mat, the mycelium or body of the fungus. The mycelium pushes, wedgelike, through the living tissue of the tree, and as those inner cells die, the bark above also dies, leaving a sunken, pale-brown depression.

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American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree by Susan Freinkel


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