Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's classic poem "The Village Blacksmith" immortalized this tree. Around the turn of the century, it was commonplace to find chestnuts towering 90' tall with trunk diameters of 6'.
Tragically, it is now near extinction, due to a catastrophic blight first noticed in the Bronx Zoo in 1904. A shipment of chestnut trees imported from China and Japan came with an unfortunate stowaway, a fungus that cuts off the flow of sap, causing the tree to die above ground. Ironically, the fungus can't live in soil, so initially the root systems of chestnuts often survived, sending up shoots that lasted only a few years until they were stricken by the blight themselves. A crossbreeding effort at restoration, with some promising results, is being led by the American Chestnut Foundation located in Bennington, Vermont.
Chestnut timber has myriad uses, from fences to fine furniture. Its high-quality timber and flavorful nuts were important commercial resources. Lighter than oak, it is very strong, with an attractive golden- brown color and open grain. Woodworkers prize it for excellent machining, finishing, and gluing properties. As a testament to their exceptional decay resistance, chestnut trees are still harvested decades after their death. Most newly harvested chestnut wood is riddled with wormholes, which are now considered character marks.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com