A chestnut tree developing fruit (chestnut nut pods).
Did you know that chestnuts need to make a comeback?
There was that ol' Nat King Cole song with the phrase "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" that was popular decades ago. As a young adult I actually "did" roast some (more like "toast") some chestnut tree nuts in a broiler. They were good, and Hot! (But roasting does give them extra flavor.)
But can you even do that now? Maybe, in the future. In Virginia the "Chestnut Foundation" is trying to bring them back. The East coast was once the home of thousands and thousands of chestnut trees, some as big around as the grand giant sequoias (of the redwood family) in California forests.
The beginning of the 20th century, a foreign fungus was discovered, some saying it was brought in to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. This "blight" on the American chestnut killed the cambium, the growing layer of the tree inside the bark. The blight, at one time, killed over billion trees! This changed the Eastern forests. No more roasting chestnuts or stuffing them in turkey for Thanksgiving.
But in recent years tree experts had created a hybrid, an American-Chinese blend of chestnut to withstand the terrible fungus. Today, with 110 middle school students, a rep from the Chestnut Foundation said we were planning (I'm told) fully American chestnut saplings, to hopefully one day become the big, fat trees they were supposed to be from the past.
The students I helped supervise at Heritage Park (Blacksburg, VA) seemed more knowledgeable about trees than I was at that age. They told me about having wild blackberry bushes on their property, and their uncle telling them how to dig and plant a tree. Certainly planting a tree, getting kids outside and around nature, away from all their durn electronic gadgets, was worth the effort.
After planting the trees and having a sit down lunch they had brought themselves, we then also did something they don't usually do at school -- we walked through the park. How many students, outside, identifying chestnuts and learning about trees, would benefit from being in the "outdoor classroom" that is a park full of trees, chestnut or otherwise? In some schools they even give up outside activity for art. Trees are important and so is being outside and exercising. And learning about chestnuts outside seemed like the perfect thing to do.