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ALCS Annual Chestnut Planting Begins

September 20, 2017

Starting in mid-September and continuing through late October, ALCS has begun planting seeds from Chinese chestnuts, American chestnuts, and hybrid chestnut trees.

Additionally, the fruits and nuts of black walnuts, Osage orange, Kentucky coffeetree, and other mast-producing and high-value timber trees are routinely planted each year across southcentral, central and northcentral Pennsylvania on properties owned or managed by ALCS.

ALCS has performed this planting annually since 2004.

"An academician recently challenged our chestnut plantings on the basis that these are mostly Chinese chestnuts, not native to American forests. He is missing the real issue here. Our forests are challenged not by a choice between planting one native nut-producing tree and another native nut-producing tree, but rather between having any good nut-producing tree at all, and one that is threatened by a host of non-native invasive trees, shrubs, and vines, all of which displace native trees and plants that are beneficial to our native wildlife. None of non-native invasives are beneficial," says Josh First, ALCS founder.

Invasive plants like mile-a-minute, ailanthus, Asian bittersweet, multiflora rose, Russian olive, Japanese honeysuckle, and many others are extremely aggressive. They quickly move into forests and edge habitats, and easily overwhelm and displace native plants, and even beneficial non-native plants like Chinese chestnut trees.

Pennsylvania forests are facing an incredible and growing array of threats, including Sudden Oak Death blight. Should this blight take hold, the loss of oak trees across Pennsylvania would end the abundant wildlife Pennsylvanians have become accustomed to enjoying, because oaks produce mast nuts. These acorns are highly nutritious and are eaten by all animals from the smallest deer mouse to the largest black bear, and every animal in between. Wildlife is completely dependant upon oak acorns.

Chestnuts are similarly nutritious and abundant, and the original American chestnut forest fed every animal and human along the east coast, until a blight killed off the species in 1912. Chinese chestnuts are resistant to the Asian blight that killed the American chestnut trees.

It has been ALCS's goal since 2004 to get ahead of the growing impacts on our native forest and wildlife by planting Chinese chestnuts and hybrids, that will be producing by the time any larger impacts are felt.

"Additionally, it was recently pointed out that Chinese chestnuts thrive in open conditions, but not when the higher forest canopy grows over them. So the chestnuts we are planting now may well serve as an important source of wildlife food until such a time as the native forest once again grows tall. At which point the Chinese chestnut trees will die off from lack of sunlight," says First.

ALCS usually plants about ten to fifteen pounds of chestnuts per year, which is several hundred potential new trees. Its seed sources are genetically diverse and include hybrid and pure American chestnut trees.