Castanea dentata once accounted for about one in four of the trees in this part of the world, providing timber and nuts for food. “The American chestnut was probably one of the dominant tree species in the Carolinian forest all the way from southern Ontario to Georgia,” says Dale.
Then came chestnut blight, imported accidentally from China. By the mid-1900s, the fungus had annihilated most of the native chestnut species; the tree was listed as threatened by 1950.
Only 1,000 to 2,000 trees are left in Canada. Today the largest single group of American chestnut trees in the country grows on a few acres in southern Ontario planted and tended within the past decade under a recovery project led by the Canadian Chestnut Council.