Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): D.B. Vandermast; David H. van Lear; B.D. Clinton
    Date: 2002
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management 165 (2002) 173-181
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: View PDF  (294 KB)


    Prior to the chestnut blight (Crypkonectria parasitica), American chestnut (Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.) was the most common overstory tree in eastern deciduous forests. Chestnut's dominance has often been attributed to its resistance to fire and subsequent propensity to sprout vigorously and grow rapidly. Its role as an allelopath has rarely been studied.

    Allelopathic qualities of chesnut leaves were tested with five native co-occurring tree species: red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (A. saccharum), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canudensis), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), a native shrub rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), and a bioassay species lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. "black seeded Simpson"). For each species, six replicates of 100 seeds each were stratified for 90 days in distilled water or chesmut leaf extract, then germinated for 21 days. Six additional replicates of red maple, eastern hemlock, yellow-poplar, and rhododendron were germinated without stratification. Lettuce seed was not stratified. When germination percentage peaked, seeds were removed from the experiment and radicle length was measured. Chestnut leaf extract lowered germination rates of extract-treated lettuce, stratified and unstratified eastern hemlock, and unstratified rhododendron seeds. Radicles of extract-treated lettuce and unstratified rhododendron were significantly shorter than radicles of water-treated seeds. In general, radicles of extract-treated seeds were thinner, broke more easily, and were less likely to have developed secondary roots than radicles of water-treated seeds. This study suggests leachate from American chestnut leaf litter could have suppressed germination and growth of competing shrub and tree species and that allelopathy was a mechanism whereby American chestnut may have controlled vegetative composition and dominated eastern forests. Current vegetative composition in southern Appalachian forests may be attributable, in part, to the disappearance of American chestnut as an allelopathic influence.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Vandermast, D.B.; van Lear, David H.; Clinton, B.D. 2002. American chestnut as an allelopath in the southern Appalachians. Forest Ecology and Management 165 (2002) 173-181


    Rhododendron, Eastern hemlock, Succession

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page