Chestnuts Roasting

Posted: January 12, 2012

The American chestnut was the dominant tree in the Pennsylvania forest a century ago. The American chestnut was prized for its massive size, excellent lumber, delicious sweet fruit, and its benefit to wildlife. Sadly, the chestnut blight changed our forest dramatically. Today only stump sprouts remain.


There are two organizations working to restore the American chestnut through breeding. The American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation and The American Chestnut Foundation are both working to restore the American chestnut.

 Even though you can’t yet purchase or plant American chestnut seed that is resistant to chestnut blight, you can plant seed from the few native trees that are still surviving. These trees have a small degree of resistance or they too would have been long gone.

The first step in growing your own chestnut tree is to locate seed from a local tree. Place the seed in a plastic bag containing moist peat moss. Put a few small holes in the bag to leg air in. Place the bag in a refrigerator. Check occasionally to ensure the peat stays damp but not soggy. Choose a location in your landscape where the tree will have plenty of room to grow. Plant the seeds that shown signs of sprouting about ¼” deep in March. Mix some of the peat from the seed bag with the soil you use to cover the seed.

The young saplings will need to be protected from wildlife. A tree tube works well.  Keep about a 4’ circle free of competing plants so the sapling can get a good start. A small amount of fertilizer is beneficial. It takes the trees about 6 years before they begin to produce nuts.

Your chestnut tree probably will eventually get chestnut blight and die. If you take care of your chestnut tree you will enjoy many harvests of sweet delicious chestnuts.

For more information contact your local extension office. In Lackawanna County call 570-963-6842 or email

John Esslinger, Extension Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension