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American Chestnut Makes Comeback in White Plains

Ken Almstead, an arborist who heads up Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Company of New Rochelle, N.Y., recently donated the services of his firm to plant a very special tree in White Plains.

The tree, an American chestnut, was transported from a chestnut nursery and research station in Virginia run by the American Chestnut Foundation, and was planted at Turnure Park in downtown White Plains. Almstead, whose crews tended the 10-foot tree and lowered its approximately 3,000 pound root ball very gingerly into the ground, said it looked very healthy and had a good chance for survival. (Note: a 60-inch root ball was cut to ensure that they got as much of the root system as possible. The soil was predominately clay as well.)

“Restoring the American chestnut tree to its rightful place in the American landscape is a very exciting project for any arborist to be involved with,” said Almstead. “The chestnut helped build early America and is an important part of our forest heritage.”

Also participating in the planting was Marshall T. Case, president and CEO of the American Chestnut Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to restore the American chestnut tree as an integral part of the eastern forest ecosystem, a status it enjoyed before an Asian chestnut blight all but eradicated the tree during the first half of the 20th century.

“It’s no small task to restore four billion trees, but this is the tree of hope for the future. The American Chestnut grows two to two-and-a-half times faster than other trees.” said Case. “And we have great hopes for this one be cause it has been bred to be blight-resistant.”

Chestnut trees once made up 25 percent of Eastern North American forests. Known as “the Kings of the Forest,” these towering giants often grew to stand 100 feet tall and lived up to 600 years. They were prized as building materials because they grew very straight and their wood was rot-resistant.

The tree planted in White Plains was one of several such trees planted in New York State as part of an initiative undertaken by Cornell University graduates in honor of Ezra Cornell’s 200th birthday. The chestnut tree was donated to the City of White Plains by Cornell alum Elizabeth Radow and accepted with thanks by Mayor Joseph Delfino.

Barbara Sacks, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension for Westchester County also took part in the ceremonies. Ken Almstead was recently elected to the board of directors of the extension and serves as horticultural chairman.


Arborist Ken Almstead of Almstead Tree & Shrub Company in New Rochelle, N.Y., joins Marshall Case, president and CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation, during the recent planting of an American chestnut tree in a park in downtown White Plains, NY. The planting is part of a statewide initiative to restore the American chestnut to the eastern forest ecosystem. The tree was nearly eradicated during the first half of the 20th century by an Asian Chestnut blight. The initiative was undertaken by graduates of Cornell University in honor of founder Ezra Cornell’s 200th birthday.

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