American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
Status in Canada: Endangered
Status in Ontario: Endangered
Status at SWCR: Common
The American Chestnut was formerly one of the dominant tree species in many forests in southern Ontario but this imposing tree is all but gone due to a disease called the Chestnut Blight.
- It used to grow up to 30m tall, and have trunks up to 1.5m in diameter!
- Chestnut trees can’t fertilize themselves, and surviving trees are now so isolated that cross-pollination is very difficult: as more trees die from Chestnut blight, it gets harder and harder for surviving populations to reproduce.
- It is not related to the European Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), which is commonly planted as an ornamental tree in Ontario.
Threats at the St. Williams Conservation Reserve:
Chestnut Blight: this invasive fungus kills trees and isolates survivors, decimating populations, and making it hard for them to reproduce.
Seed predation: seeds are rare to begin with, and they are often eaten by native animals such as squirrels and deer.
Loss of Individuals: Large trees are killed during forest harvesting and development.
Hybridization: American Chestnut will hybridize with introduced chestnut species.
Activities that can damage Chestnut trees and their habitat include:
- Activities that interfere with understory shrubs, unauthorized plant collecting and off-trail ATV use.
- Vegetation management activities that can crush or small trees and saplings, such as prescribed burns, herbicide use to control invasive plants, conifer plantation thinning.
- Off-trail recreational activities that can trample saplings, or remove them from their habitat, such as trampling, crushing under vehicles, and collecting.
St. Williams Conservation Reserve management practices:
- Population monitoring
- Enforcement of unauthorized trail use
What you can do to help:
- Follow the code of conduct for recreational activities in the Conservation Reserve and know and respect the current trail-use regulations.
- Report unauthorized trail use or any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).