Hit & Run

Ron Bailey on Saving the American Chestnut Tree


American chestnut

In the early 20th century, chestnut blight fungus introduced from overseas devastated American chestnuts—the then-dominant trees in eastern forests stretching from Maine to Mississippi. Crossbreeding and genetic engineering efforts promise to return the tree to American forests, but University of Vermont emeritus biologist Bernd Heinrich declares such efforts a "Trojan horse" and a threat to his "sacred" naturally evolved nuts. But, as Ron Bailey points out, it's likely that only human ingenuity can restore these majestic trees to their rightful place.