A century ago a blight nearly wiped out the American chestnut all over the East Coast. A comeback, in the making since the early 1980s, may happen soon. According to a column in the Providence Journal, five potentially blight-resistant seedlings were recently planted at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass. Other plantings have been done at the Roger Williams Park Edible Forest Garden in Providence, R.I., and at two American chestnut orchards run by University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners in South Kingstown, R.I.
The blight killed almost all American chestnut trees, but their root systems survived, according to the column in the Providence Journal. The American Chestnut Foundation has been crossing these root systems with Chinese chestnut trees which are more resistant to the blight, although not immune. The University of Rhode Island gardeners are only using the strongest specimens in each generation for further breeding.