The Q&A Archives: Will my chesnut trees produce nuts?

Question: This summer I received two baby chestnut trees as a gift. I know chestnut blight has killed many of these trees in America. What are my chances of getting a crop of nuts? Fred Waller Campbell Hall, NY

Answer: If you received Chinese chestnut trees or Chinese American hybrids, the chances are excellent that you'll get nuts from your trees. Those kinds get the blight, but it rarely kills them. If there are not other chestnuts growing within a one mile radiusof your trees, chances are good that an American chestnut would escape infection, says Mark Double, a plant pathologist who's worked with chestnuts for 15 years at West Virginia University in Morgantown. Here's how to tell the trees apart. American chestnuts have no hairs on the undersides of the leaves, while a Chinese chestnut's leaves are hairy underneath, says Double. The hybrids also have some hair on the bottoms of the leaves, depending on how much Chinese chestnut is in their heritage.Young trees are most susceptible to the chestnut blight. The symptoms include yellowing of leaves in midsummer, orange bumps on the bark and cankers on tree limbs. If blight appears on Chinese chestnuts or hybrids, let the disease run its course. Most ofthem grow and product well even with blight infection. For American chestnuts, prune out infected branches and destroy them or use a mud compress on the canker to kill the fungus,: says Double. The mud compress creates an anaerobic environment in which the fungus can't survive, he explains. Take a black plastic garbage bag, slit one side and place the bag, slit side towards the tree, over the canker so the bottom of the bag is six inches below the infected site. Tape the bottom and two sides of the bag to the tree and fill the bag with the moist soil to six inches above the canker. Tape the top of the bag to the tree and leave it for nine to 12 months.

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