Pleistocene Chestnut Woodlands

What a fabulous story!


The chestnut (Castanea dentata) was the most valuable tree of eastern North America’s ecosystem.  From north Georgia to central New York it composed up to 25% of the forest.  It provided a heavy annual crop of nuts eaten by every animal from mice to bison.  The chestnut tree has a tendency to become hollow, making it an important den tree as well.  The chestnut tree equaled food and shelter for wildlife.  The spring flowers attracted untold numbers of insect pollinators, and modern studies show the presence of chestnut trees increases the fertility of sandy loam soils.  Chestnut trees were found on dry rocky ridges and moist slopes.  William Bartram, heading north through Georgia  during his travels just before the American Revolution, began encountering chestnut trees in the upper piedmont where he found them growing on rocky hilltops associated with chinkapins and chinkapin oaks.  The chinkapin is a shrubby relative of the chestnut tree. …

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