Endangered Tree Seed for the Heartland Harvest Garden

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Endangered Tree Seed for the Heartland Harvest Garden

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

I feel like the Powell Gardens is the caring young child at the end of Dr. Seuss’s classic book “The Lorax.” We learned today we will receive 5 EXTREMELY RARE seeds of the Ozark Chinkapin (Castanea ozarkensis); a tree that once thrived in the Ozarks and Ouchita Mountains to our south. Its Missouri endangered species classification is “Imperiled.” Just like the lorax handed the last seed of the “truffula tree” to that caring child we will do our best to germinate, grow and display these special gifts from the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation www.ozarkchinquapin.com.

Ozark chinkapins are one of 6 species of CHESTNUTS in the world. You may know them merely from the tune “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” In 1904 a fungal disease was accidentally introduced which killed billions of American Chestnuts (Castanea dentata) across the Eastern United States. The ecological and economic impact was astounding. In the 1960’s it spread west and infected its rarer relative the Ozark Chinkapin “previously often massive, to 20m, now rarely more than 10m mostly resprouting following blight” (Flora of North America).

Ozark “natives fondly remember stuffing their pockets with “chinkapins” on their way home from school. They were a seasonal, sweet nutritious treat” (Thomas, Byers & Mourglia- see www.aes.missouri.edu/swcenter/news/archive/v12n4/swrc5.stm). An article also appears in the current issue of Missouri Conservationist. Thank the Northern Nut Growers Association for funding establishment of 3 orchards aimed at cultivating and saving the ozark chinkapin in Southwest Missouri. I am thankful there are folks out there who practice “UNLESS” … you will have to (re)read The Lorax if you don’t follow my thoughts.

More on all the chestnuts in a future blog: the Heartland Harvest Garden will have a special chestnut orchard and a few will be planted in the Author’s Garden representing hybrids of all of the world’s 6 species (American Chestnut Castanea dentata, Allegheny Chinkapin C. pumila, Ozark Chinkapin, Spanish Chestnut C. sativa, Japanese Chestnut C. crenata, and Chinese Chestnut C. mollissima).