After enjoying our first winter snow this January, I recalled a warmer time at Jocassee in mid-September, when hints of fall began to tease us. Kayaking with a friend, we entered a cove not far from one of the boat ramps, looking for unique plants, reptiles, otters, etc. and decided to pull up on a small sandy beach to stretch and take a closer look at the vegetation. Most of the usual tree species were there but then a familiar, but now less common leaf, caught my eye. At first, I thought it was a small tree-size ‘sprout’ of an American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) but upon closer inspection, I noticed a bristly chestnut-like fruit, significantly smaller than the fruit of American Chestnut. The difference in size of leaves and fruit indicated it was ‘Common Chinkapin’, Castanea pumila. These 2 species are the only chestnut species that are native to this area. The Chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, came to North America via the Chinese Chestnut in 1904 and decimated the American Chestnut. The impact on Common Chinkapin is not clear in the research literature, with some reports indicating it may have some resistance to the fungus. The good news is that our chestnut tree species are able to resprout after the above-ground parts die off. The American Chestnut Foundation and other organizations are working hard to develop blight resistant American Chestnut trees without loss of size and quality. ~David White, JLT kayak and lake tour guide


 

 

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