Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Reports and information related to the Chestnut Project. This project was initiated by James Parton to document the remnants of American Chestnut still found in the eastern United States.

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James Parton
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Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by James Parton » Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:29 pm

ENTS,

During a visit to Cataloochee Valley last Sunday Will and I noted several pre-blight chestnut relics. The first was a tall rampick ( Norse for snag ), by the way Ranger Dan brought this term to ENTS when doing a post on old chestnut snags a while back. I like it and have chose to adopt the term. Anyway, Will brought it to my attention as we were making our way back down Pretty Hollow Gap trail. It was on the right between the bank and the creek. I studied it closely and measured its girth. It is the first pre-blight standing trunk I have seen. I did find one at Kilmer a little while back but was not sure if it was chestnut at the time. I now tend to think it was. I had been there looking for another that Dan had reported but I never found it. Before Will and I came across the rampick he showed me a rotting chestnut log on the forest floor. He explained to me how to tell chestnut from the other deadfall on the forest floor.

On down the trail we checked out two live chestnuts that Will knew of. They are European Chestnuts. The first I have seen. They are near the site of an old homestead and Will thought they must be a mother tree around somewhere. The two small trees are young and not much taller than 30 feet. We looked around close by but never could find a mother tree.

The European Chestnut ( Castanea Sativa ) is probably the closest relative to American Chestnut ( Castanea Dentata ). While the leaves were not out on these trees yet the leaves from the previous year litter the ground. They look very similar to Am Chestnut. The shape it pretty much the same. However the serrations at the leaves edges are not so course as the American species. Burrs also could be found under the trees. They are larger and more coarser spined than Am Chestnut. Also the trees are big enough that if American the bark would be starting to get more of the rougher mature form. But these had smoother bark than would the typical American at this size. Not as smooth as the juvinile Am Chestnuts but different. I'll attach some photos. I commented to Will that in Europe these get HUGE! He said he would love to go see them.

I wonder how well these European trees will handle the blight? In Europe the trees were saved by hypovirulence research and it is believed that it worked because they are fewer strains of chestnut blight in Europe than here in North America. It is true that European Chestnut is more blight resistant than American, but only slightly. I am curious on how well these trees hold up. They are doing ok so far.

After leaving Pretty Hollow Creek Will took me to see some chestnut relics located in a treated area in the upper part of the valley. It is located on the right as you come off the winding dirt road into the park. Left goes down into the valley. Park at the gate and walk up an old park service road about five minutes or so and take a left into the forest. Upon entering the forest the first thing you notice is the awesome green hemlocks. If you can tear your eyes away from them you can find many old pre-blight chestnut remains on the forest floor. One was a huge log about 4 1/2 feet in diameter. Will also took me to see a nice standing rampick that still has the bark on it! Very few snags still have bark anymore and many chestnut sprouts never get big enough to show mature bark. To me it looked alot like Locust. Or better yet, a cross between Locust, Walnut and Red Oak. Check out the attached photos.

We also found a nice Mountain Laurel here that was almost 30 feet tall. That's pretty dang big for Mountain Laurel! We also checked out a short fat " stumpy " hemlock that had considerable weather damage just before hitting a trail back to the car. Will had treated it but worried that due to a limb shortage that survival may be difficult for the tree. We can only hope.

I thank Will Blozan for inviting me on this great trip.

By the way. Happy Earth Day!

Chestnut Rampicks

6' 11" cbh

7' 11" cbh with bark!

James
Attachments
PHC Rampick.JPG
PHC Rampick.JPG (82.06 KiB) Viewed 4223 times
PHC Rampick Tall.JPG
PHC Rampick Tall.JPG (55.55 KiB) Viewed 4223 times
European Chestnut.JPG
Will & European Chestnut.JPG
James on Chestnut log.JPG
IMG_4685.JPG
IMG_4685.JPG (70.35 KiB) Viewed 4223 times
IMG_4687.JPG
IMG_4687.JPG (68.52 KiB) Viewed 4223 times
IMG_4689.JPG
James E Parton
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Zachary S
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Re: Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by Zachary S » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:54 pm

James,

That is SO cool. Relics and snags like that are so fascinating, like a piece of the past caught in time. And chestnut's resistance to decay is remarkable - I wonder how many other eastern tree species would still be more or less intact after all that time.

~Zac

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James Parton
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Re: Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by James Parton » Mon Apr 26, 2010 5:05 am

Zac,

Probably few. Maybe Eastern Red Cedar and Black Locust. Baldcypress is rot-resistant too, I think. The woods are rapidly filling up with what will be hemlock relics. I don't think they will hold up as well as the American Chestnuts though.

My guess is that many of these relics in the Smokies have been here since the 20s and 30s. Maybe a few late ones in the 40s. The pre-blight chestnuts were totally gone by 1950. I think the Smokies were one of the last places hit by the Chestnut Blight.

James
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
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New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by Larry Tucei » Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:43 pm

James, Thats interesting stuff. Can you imagine how many Giant Chestnuts there were before the blight. Thousands! Miss that Rhodo! Larry

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Don
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Re: Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by Don » Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:05 pm

Wandering across the land, especially along boundary lines between private and federal landownerships, the way foresters do, when boundary line restoration is a part of their job. In southeastern Kentucky, I often ran across relics of chesnut trees, most often as split ties in a boundary line fence. When they stayed off the ground, and free of falling limbs, etc., they stayed remarkably intact. I believe I recall seeing the downed chesnuts also used as shakes for roofing shingles. Old timers showed me the tool that was used to 'split' the rounds...it was called a 'fro' (that's how it was pronounced anyway)...sharpness must have been critical to it's success, as I often heard the phrase "why that's duller than a fro", when items with an edge weren't doing their job.
Don Bertolette - President/Moderator, WNTS BBS
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gnmcmartin
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Re: Chestnut relics in Cataloochee Valley

Post by gnmcmartin » Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:30 pm

35 years ago when I bought the main part of my timberland, there were a couple of chestnut relics--standing ones. One was over 5 feet in diameter, was basically hollow, and was weathered to that beautiful silver color. They have since fallen down and split apart. There is little left to see.

In places I see these huge depressions in the soil, and on one side a kind of ridge. These are, I believe, remnants of fallen trees--when the root table was turned up it pulled a lot of soil up with it. As it rotted away, an elongated mound was left next to the depression where the tree was rooted. Some of these are absolutely huge--the trees that stood there must have been absolute monsters. I have wondered if they might have been giant chestnut trees. Or perhaps tuliptrees, or maybe oaks. I guess there is no way to know.

--Gaines

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