LOVELL — Foresters with the Maine Forest Service and the University of Maine have measured what is believed to be the tallest American chestnut tree in North America, exceeding the next tallest one by 20 feet, according to a statement from the American Chestnut Association.

According to the association, based in Asheville, N.C., the 115-foot tall tree is growing in a reserved forest on land bequeathed to the University of Maine Foundation in Lovell. The Volk family owned the property for more than 100 years before donating it to the University Foundation.

Douglas Volk, who died in 1935, was a famous American portrait and landscape painter with works found in most American collections. The discovery of this tree is significant, because the species, castanea dentata, has been ravaged by an invasive blight that kills the trees to the ground, according to the association. It is estimated that there are only a few dozen large surviving trees such as this one left in the Maine woods.

The American Chestnut Foundation is a nonprofit conservation organization working to restore the American chestnut species to its native range.

An official measurement of the Lovell tree will take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Representatives of the foundation, the University of Maine, the Maine Forest Service and the University of Maine Foundation will attend. There will also be a chestnut-themed dinner and lectures that evening beginning at 7 p.m. at Sheepscot General Store and Farm, 98 Townhouse Road, in Whitefield.

Once the mighty giants of the eastern forest, American chestnut trees stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. From Maine to Georgia, this tree was a vital component of the eastern forests, providing abundant food for wildlife and serving as an economic staple for humans. In the beginning of the 20th century the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight was accidentally imported into the U.S. from Asia and spread rapidly. By 1950 the fungus had eliminated the American chestnut as a mature forest tree, according to the foundation statement.

For information about the foundation and its work, contact Director of Communications Ruth Goodridge at 828-281-0047 or [email protected], or go to www.acf.org.


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