Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Growth, survival, and competitive ability of chestnut (Castanea Mill.) seedlings planted across a gradient of light levels


Scott E. Schlarbaum
Arnold M. Saxton
Ami M. Sharp
Frederick V. Hebard



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station


New Forests


There has been an increased interest in tree breeding for resistance to exotic pests and pathogens, however relatively little research has focused on the reintroduction of these tree species. Understanding the durability of resistance in field settings and the field performance of improved trees is critical for successful species reintroduction. To evaluate methods for reintroducing American chestnut [Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh] to managed forests on the Cumberland Plateau, we quantified four-year survival and growth and three-year competitive ability of chestnut seedlings planted on the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky, USA. We used a split-plot design to compare chestnut response among three silvicultural treatments spanning a gradient of light levels; midstory removal, thinning, and shelterwood with reserves (2, 24, and 65% available photosynthetically active radiation, respectively) and three chestnut breeding types; American, Chinese (C. mollissima Blume.), and BC2F3 hybrid. One of two hybrid families planted had similar survival to American chestnuts, 21 and 27% survival, respectively, while the other had better survival, 57%. Chinese chestnut survival was better than the other breeding generations (90%). High mortality among American and hybrid chestnut seedlings was likely caused by infection from Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands. Incidence of blight infection was low. While chestnut seedling growth was greatest in the high-light treatment, competitive ability of chestnut, evaluated by comparing planted seedling height to height of understory competitors, was maximized in the intermediate light treatment. These results demonstrate the importance of evaluating competition pressure from cooccurring vegetation and field performance of resistant genotypes when assessing methods for reintroducing tree species to forested settings.

Sound Research audio clip of this publication is available.


Pinchot, Cornelia C.; Schlarbaum, Scott E.; Clark, Stacy L.; Saxton, Arnold M.; Sharp, Ami M.; Schweitzer, Callie J.; Hebard, Frederick V. 2017. Growth, survival, and competitive ability of chestnut (Castanea Mill.) seedlings planted across a gradient of light levels. New Forests. 48: 491-512.


Publication Notes

  • 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.