American chestnut trees make comeback in Fairfield
FAIRFIELD — If you look long enough in Connecticut, you might just be able to find an old utility pole made of American chestnut wood.
After all, Sandra Anagnostakis, now retired from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, said the American chestnut was prized for its straightness and ability to withstand rot. Homes, fences, posts and furniture were made from its wood, and it once dominated the eastern half of the United States.
What it could not withstand, however, was a blight fungus, and more than a century ago the American chestnut was all but wiped out.
When the Garden Clubs of America marked its 100th anniversary in 2012, the Fairfield Garden Club teamed up with Anagnostakis and the town to plant 100 hyrbid American chestnut trees at eight different locations. They have since planted 25 more trees.
Last week, they took a tour with Conservation Director Brian Carey to check on the health of those trees.
“This is the comeback of the American chestnut,” said Barbara Geddes Wooten, club president, as the tour checked out the grove of trees they had planted on some of the Lake Mohegan open space. They were hoping at least 50 percent of the trees would survive; instead, they found that number was 61 percent. In the branches of one of the trees was a nest cradling some blue robin eggs.
“It was a big help to have not only the town of Fairfield to help out, but also the Garden Club, who provided the funds and the labor, and the enthusiasm,” Anagnostaki said.
The American chestnut is fast-growing, and Anagnostaki said some of them should soon be providing nuts that squirrels will bring to other locations, hopefully starting a new stand of trees. According to Wooten, Fairfield’s sites are doing much better than others in the state.