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Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee

American Chestnut Recovery

The American Chestnut (Castanea Dentate) was once one of the most abundant tree species (25%) in the Carolinian Forest in Southwestern Ontario, as well as across the Eastern US. In 1904, the Chestnut Blight fungus was introduced into North America on nursery trees from Japan. By 1920, the Blight had reached southern Ontario, and by 1950 the American Chestnut population was essentially elimintated in forests in Eastern North America.

The Chestnut Blight leaves the tree roots intact, so that the trees survive by resprouting. As a result, if you walk through older growth forests in Southern Ontario, such as Backus Woods, you will see small American Chestnut trees growing. But only trees with built-in resistance to the Blight survive past 5 metres (16 feet) tall. A few of these still remain, and a small group of dedicated scientists and naturalists are working to bring back the American Chestnut by breeding trees with better resistance and researching ways to naturally reduce the strength of the Blight (excerpt take from "The Recovery of the American Chestnut", a Grand River Conservation Authority Publication by Bruce Graham).

Bruce Graham on the left, with a Nursery Volunteer

Sarnia Urban Wildlife Committee is helping with the effort to bring back the American Chestnut by planting hundreds of young trees every year in gardens and remnant wild spaces around Sarnia. SUWC buys bare root seedlings from Burford Tree Nursery outside of Brantford. We bring them to Sarnia and a grower at DeGroots pots them and keeps them for a year. We then sell them to the public for $10.00 a tree.

What Can You Do?

You can help by contacting us if you have a place in your backyard for an American Chestnut. They can grow to a height of about 100 feet, and the chestnuts are delicious. More information about these wonderful trees can be found here. E-mail us if you are interested at

For more information on the American Chestnut and the recovery project, visit this link.