Whether a tree makes a sound when it falls alone in a forest is up for debate, but whether a naturalist makes a sound upon locating a rare full-grown American chestnut in a forest is clear.
“Here it is!” Jim White of the Delaware Nature Society exclaimed to WHYY News on a trek to see the only known American chestnut in Delaware, a state where it was long thought to be extinct.
The rare tree, which is 65 feet high and 18 inches in diameter, was recently discovered by a deer hunter. The forest in Centreville, Del., where the lone American chestnut was found would have been 30% American chestnut trees in the early 1900s, before a parasitic fungus wiped out about 4 billion American chestnuts in the eastern U.S., according to WHYY News.
“The great, great majority of American chestnuts that you find today throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and so on are small sprouts that are struggling for existence,’’ Sara Fitzsimmons of the American Chestnut Foundation told WHYY News. “They get the blight, they die back, they resprout, they get the blight, they die back, they resprout. They’re these tiny diseased things.”
The full-grown an American chestnut is thus considered a “holy grail”-like find. The tree will begin dropping nuts soon, and naturalists plan to collect them in an attempt to bolster the small population there and elsewhere.