American Chestnut – Identification by Catkins
In May of 2008, Wayne Bowman of the Virginia Department of Forestry surprised me when he said winter was a great time to find American chestnuts. I was skeptical because the trees would be missing their leaves, but eight months later, I saw how right he was when some dark, blighted bark drew my eye to chestnuts near Mountain Lake.
At McAfee’s Knob last weekend, Ryan and I were able to spot a American chestnut from a distance thanks to another part of their anatomy– their catkins. We were up at the Southeast section of the Knob (the side facing Roanoke Airport). Looking East, we saw this:
In the foreground is a Chestnut Oak. But it was what was behind it that caught our attention. Back by the rocks– catkins.
The passage was a little too tight for the pregnancy belly, but thin Ryan went closer to investigate.
And we were right! The flowers were from an American chestnut blooming at the top of McAfee’s Knob on June 26, 2011.
American Chestnut Catkins from McAfee’s Knob (Photo by Ryan Somma)
It goes to show that the more you know about a tree, the more it is going to stick out!