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Lincoln Park to plant chestnut trees

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By Linda Ireland

 Workers at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park will plant 20 American chestnut trees at the picnic area on Saturday, May 17.  

The blight-resistant trees, known as “Restoration Chestnuts 1.0,” are the products of The American Chestnut Foundation national breeding program which breed native American chestnuts with blight-resistant Chinese chestnuts. 

Progeny from the breeding is then selected after several years for individual blight resistance and American chestnut characteristics. At one time, the American chestnut was the dominant tree in forests from Maine through Georgia and west to the Ohio valley. It was once as prolific as the common weed across the eastern United States. It was the “keystone species” in 188 million acres of eastern forests, according to the American Chestnut Society.

But billions of trees were destroyed as the result of a blight that was introduced into the United States in the early 1900’s.

Planting programs – like the one at the Park – are used in hopes of bringing “the tree back to its former glory,” according to a news release.

“Families in rural America, including the Lincoln family, once depended heavily upon the American chestnut for both food and shelter. The trees grew straight and tall and were rot-resistant, making the wood desirable for construction,” said Park Superintendent Bill Justice. “The small nuts were sweet and fed entire families, as well as livestock and many species of wildlife.”

This free event is open to the public and will begin at 10 a.m. The park’s picnic pavilion will be closed to the public 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer for the event and plant trees is welcome to attend and should notify the park by calling 270-358-3137.