Botany Blog Plants of the Northeastern U.S.

October 9, 2011

Chestnut blight: historical perspective

Filed under: North American Native Plants — admin @ 22:34

In researching the flora of New York State I came across some interesting information regarding the early establishment of Chestnut Blight (Cryphonectria parasitica). In the report of the state botanist of 1908, it was reported that the blight had not yet become established in the Catskill Mountain region. The northernmost extent of its range in NY at that time was thought to be Dutchess County, although it was not clearly established there.

The thing that really caught my eye was the thinking at the time regarding the threat this fungal disease posed to our native Chestnut. According to Peck, “It is more likely that the pessimistic views concerning its rapid spread and destructive consequences, entertained by some writers, will scarcely be realized. Unusually destructive outbreaks of parasitic fungi are apt to be dependent on unusual climatic conditions and therefore to be of short duration”. Clearly this was not the case, and it is hard to find a chestnut tree today of any appreciable size if one can find one at all. The species is essentially now ecologically extinct.

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