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American chestnut

The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, was once the most important forest tree throughout much of the eastern United States but has been driven to the brink of extinction by the chestnut blight, Cryphonectria parasitica (formerly Endothia parasitica).

It is estimated that one out of four trees within its range were American chestnut, for a total of some 3.5 billion trees. The number of surviving mature trees can now be counted in the mere dozens, due to the blight.

The American chestnut is a prolific bearer of nuts. These were once an important economic resource in the U.S., even being sold on the streets of larger cities, as they sometimes still are during the Christmas season (usually "roasting on an open fire" so their smell is readily identifiable many blocks away). The wood was widely used, as well, as were tannins extracted from the tree.

The American chestnut was also a critically important tree for wildlife, providing much of the fall mast for wildlife species such as white-tailed deer[?] and wild turkey[?].

Several organizations are attempting to breed blight-resistant chestnuts and to reintroduce the species to the wild. One of these is the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation, at
http://www.ppws.vt.edu/griffin/accf



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