Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dreams of Spring by John Dersham

I stopped along the trail and placed an American Chestnut seeding on the ground to prepare for planting. Yes, I said American Chestnut. You are correct in thinking this was a near extinct tree. A blight in the early 1900’s killed off this giant American classic tree that covered most of the Appalachian Mountain areas, including ours. Yes there are still some around. They keep coming up from roots, they are small and when they get bigger the disease that killed them to begin with infects them again. So why am I talking about planting an American Chestnut seeding on my land on Lookout Mountain? The answer is that after years of research to find a way to re-establish this wonderful tree a hybrid between the American and Chinese Chestnut has been developed that is 94% the original tree and the 6% that is not is the part that makes the tree resistant against the infestations that killed them to begin with. All along the Appalachian Mountains there are organizations of tree and forest lovers committed to re-establishing this tree in quantity. The American Chestnut is not only a large and very beautiful tree, its lumber is a wonderful hardwood that was once a primary tree for the construction of homes, barns and furniture.
Over the years many tree species have been lost to disease or insect infestation. Many of them like the great American Elm have hybrids or variations of the same species that live today. Right now the Eastern Hemlock and native Dogwoods are under attack and mass efforts are in place to try and save them, either by treating them or finding prevention or cure for the disease.
As I walk through these beautiful hardwood forests of Lookout Mountain it feels good looking at our diverse plant cultures. We have an abundance of wonderful tree and shrub varieties to enjoy. Our area, being in climate zone seven, contributes to our diversity by allowing plant varieties to grow here that would normally be better associated with areas further south or further north.
 It is sort of mild day today, between cold fronts. It is wet and foggy out here but there is no day of the year these woodlands are not beautiful. I love hiking and seeing the changes occur almost daily as each fragment of each season has its own look and feel. You only know this if you look close and pay attention to nature. You have to watch closely to notice that even in the dead of winter the woodlands are alive and well and they are busy into their processes required to move into spring, and bloom and grow. There is nothing I like better than seeing the new birth of spring in the woodlands each year. My wife and I take daily hikes and often twice a day just to see this amazing re-birth as it moves full speed ahead into its annual growth cycle, then it slows down as summer evolves and gradually begins to retire for the season and go into another dormant stage to replenish itself to start is all over again.