On Friday I took Rachel out for lunch at The Warehouse Market, a very nice country store/bakery which also happens to stock some of my books.
While driving a meandering country road, I spotted something beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I had to turn around and take pictures.
This chestnut is one of the loveliest I have seen, and it was absolutely loaded with nuts.
As I was taking this second picture from the road, the property owner came out and said hi. I walked up to the porch and said “hi,” telling him that his tree was the most beautiful I’d seen here in Lower Alabama.
Come to think of it, it may be the only one I’ve seen here, other than the potted ones I started from seeds I purchased. Some folks most plant Chinese chestnuts on their deer plots, since I have seen them for sale at stores and a local told me they did – but I haven’t actually seen them growing.
This one is a showstopper. Jack, the owner, told me it’s at least 200 years old.
Even the trunk has great character:
“About twenty years ago, the power company came and was going to cut it down. The man had the chainsaw at the base when I caught him,” Jack said. “I told him he could move the power line, but there was no way I was gonna let him cut down that tree.”
I noticed the power lines going through the middle of the tree, and thought how they must have run the lines over the tree to begin with, if the tree is centuries old.
“People don’t get that God made these trees to feed us. They’ll cut one down for convenience or to cut corners.”
“I’m glad you were here to save it,” I said. “This is a truly beautiful tree. Obviously it’s really well suited to our area.”
“It’s always been there,” Jack continued. “I’ve lived here my entire life. It always makes lots of nuts, except every ninth year it doesn’t bear anything. Do you know why it would do that?”
“Perhaps it needs to recharge,” I mused.
“Some Chinese used to come and pick them,” Jack said. “I told them they were welcome to take them. I roast a few every year but this tree makes so many. They don’t come anymore, though. That was some years ago.”
“It’s amazing,” I said.
“Well, you can come and pick up as many as you like,” he told me.
“Thank you,” I replied. “I’d like to plant them and save these genetics, since they’re so well adapted.”
“You’re welcome to them,” he said.
Right now the nuts are just starting to fall.
What a nice find! Here are a few more photos:
I’ll be checking back on that tree and gathering more nuts to plant.
We’ll see if we can store these chestnuts through winter to grow in the spring. I’ll probably follow the method in that link, as well as plant some directly out in a seed bed this fall.