Quiet Struggle In NH Woodlands

I meant to write this a few weeks ago so people could see for themselves but I missed the perfect timing end of it. Here goes anyway.

As I drive into Concord more often than I used to before I got involved in the almost senseless world of politics I have not taken my eye off what is going on around me.

Along Rt. 89 heading into Concord the right of way edges leading up to the tree line are showing an amazing new development - chestnut saplings, lots of them.

Chestnut trees started dying at an amazing rate once the Chestnut “Blight” was found in NY in 1904. It was once a majestic tree that produced large amounts of nuts and light, strong, highly prized wood.

I used to top very large high quality trees like walnut and white oak in Pa. for a log-buyer named Ed Ray who was born in 1900. He remembered chestnuts in their prime and as we drove from one job to another he would point out patches of woods he had logged in the 30's and 40's and describe what trees where there then. Ed could still show me “seed trees” they left behind. Once we even stumbled across a large stack of chestnut lumber still in a barn after being air dried for ages. It was beautiful lumber which had never been edged and some still had the bark on.

Years ago I would spot a chestnut sapling or even a small tree and grab a few leaves off of it to hang around the office or barn just to look at. But this year I noticed there were saplings almost every few yards for about a mile out from Concord. They are easy to spot because the leaves are oval with teeth in the sides and about 7-10 inches long. They are bright yellow in the fall. The nuts, with husks on, look just like sea urchins covered with spines. I found some small deformed chestnuts in Pa. once while turkey hunting on an old strip mined ridge.

Imagine a tree that once dominated our forests being completely wiped out, which then for fifty years grows back from ancient stumps only to die back over and over and over again without ever living long enough to produce nuts or seeds. I think its amazing.

There may come a day they re-populate our forests. That would be good for New Hampshire.