THE BEST FOOD PLOT TREE
THE MOST IMPORTANT TREE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
The American chestnut was the most important food and timber tree species in the Eastern hardwood forest. It was almost completely destroyed by a bark fungus accidentally introduced from the Orient in 1904. Within 40 years, over 30 million acres of chestnut trees were killed from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi. This tragedy was the largest ecological disaster in American history.
The chestnut was an amazingly useful tree: its plentiful nuts were eaten by people and wildlife, its beautiful, rot-resistant lumber was used for everything from furniture to fence posts, and its tannin used in the tanning industry. The loss of the chestnut, at the time of the Great Depression, had a devastating effect on the people and wildlife of the Appalachian mountains. The economic loss from the chestnut's demise amounted to untold millions of dollars.
THE ORIGINAL FOOD PLOT TREE
The American Chestnut was the primary food source tree for wildlife - deer, bear, turkey, squirrel, hogs - and produced literally a TON of mast or more per acre! Chestnuts were the favored food in the fall for game, because the sweet tasting nuts were high in protein, carbohydrate and had no bitter tasting tannins like acorns.
Deer are EVOLUTIONARILY PROGRAMMED TO EAT CHESTNUTS! Chestnuts are favored by deer over all other nuts because of their taste and nutrition. They are high in carbohydrates (40%), contain 10% high quality protein and no bitter-tasting tannin.
DEER CHOSE CHESTNUTS 100:1 OVER ACORNS!
In tests performed by Dr. James Kroll "Dr. Deer" at the Whitetail Research Institute in Nacogdoches, TX, Kroll reports: "Even though the wild deer at this location had never seen a chestnut in many generations, they got on the chestnuts within ONLY AN HOUR after we put them out. The deer ate the chestnuts 100:1 over the acorns! Chestnuts are deer's preferred food."
Dr. James Kroll - Chestnuts are Deer's Preferred Food
Huge Bucks eating Chestnuts at Whitetail Research Institute
One of the reasons deer prefer chestnuts is the sweet taste of the nuts. It actually sweetens the meat of the animals that eat it. In Spain, hogs are raised on chestnuts because of the excellent flavored meat it produces - Estremaduran pork is an international delicacy. Venison from chestnut fed deer tastes like corn-fed venison, without the gamey taste of deer that feed on bitter-tasting acorns.
We grow the Dunstan Chestnut, bred by noted plant breeder Dr. Robert Dunstan, because of its disease resistance and heavy annual crops of very large, sweet nuts. Dunstan Chestnuts have been grown for 30 years all over the US, in Zones 4-9 from Maine to Michigan and Illinois and south to Florida, without any trees ever dying from the blight (see Testimonials). In our field test s, deer readily choose chestnuts over acorns, and there are deer feeding in our orchard every night during harvest season.
R. D. Wallace from Chestnut Hill discusses Dunstan Chestnuts
Dunstan Chestnuts grow faster and bear sooner (in only 2-4 years) than oaks, have wide soil adaptability, have regular annual bearing (no skipped years like all oak species) and excellent production - 2,000+ lbs/acre or more. The tree pictured below was planted on our farm in 1984 and is over 50' tall with excellent timber form:
BETTER THAN OAK TREES
Dunstan Chestnuts are clearly superior as a tree for attracting deer and wildlife, and should be part of every deer management program.
|Dunstan Chestnut||White Oak||Sawtooth (Red) Oak |
|Hybrid with native||Yes||from China|
|Soil type||Wide adaptability||Rich upland||sand-clay loam|
|Growth Rate||10-12' Year 3||3-4' Year 3||4-6' Year 3|
|Years to bear||2-4||20-50||4-6|
|lbs/tree Year 10||10-25||0||10-30|
|Annual Bearing||Every year||Every 4-10 years||Every 2-3 years|
Data adapted from multiple sources, incl. Kirkpatrick and Pekins (2002) in Oak Forest Ecosystems: Ecology and Management for Wildlife, McShea and Healy, Eds, Johns Hopkins Press.
THE TRUTH ABOUT HYBRID OAKS
Some nurseries are actively promoting new 'varieties' of hybrid oak trees, because they found a tree in the woods that appears to have hybrid leaf characteristics, and produces a large acorn. Just because a tree bears a large acorn does not mean that planting those acorns will also produce trees that bear large acorns. Most if not all oaks are self-sterile, so they must be pollinated by another oak to bear a crop. Oaks are affected by metaxenia, in which the size and ripening of the nut is influenced by the pollen parent. The crop of acorns produced may have received pollen from multiple other oak trees in the area, and thus there will be variability in the size of the seed produced from growing out those seed into trees. Planting a large acorn does not guarantee the tree grown from that acorn will also bear large acorns, and that tree will also be pollinated by other oaks in the area introducing further variability into acorn production. In many cases these nurseries have never even seen the results of growing out seed produced from their 'hybrid' oaks, because it takes so long for an oak to produce a crop. So they are selling nothing but hope that their trees will produce acorns like the parent tree.
Our Dunstan Chestnut trees are grown from seed harvested from a grafted orchard of trees that all bear extremely large nuts, so each tree is receiving pollen from a large nutted cultivar. While there is still variation in the size of the seed produced, we have definitively proven over the last 30 years that our trees will consistently produce high quality large nutted cultivars. The commercial growers we sell to demand the largest sized nuts because they bring the highest price, and this is why they plant Dunstan Chestnuts. Their quality is proven!