One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ever seen one of these?

mystery #166


I’ll check back later for your guesses!


It is a Chestnut bur–the name for the seed covering–as one of our readers guessed, but not a Horse Chestnut. Those are only a little prickly, not covered with spines like these chestnut burs. The chestnuts themselves are protected inside the burs.

Chestnut burs with chestnuts inside

These nuts don’t look like they fully ripened, but they were all that were left when we ran across them. Probably the local squirrels found and ate the best ones, because we squirrels will eat tree nuts of any kind–that is, once they are free from spines!

Chestnut leaves and bur

The nuts had also fallen from the burs still on the tree. We admit we aren’t quite sure which kind of chestnut tree this is. Nutmeg and I looked it up on The American Chestnut Foundation website and believe the leaves are wide enough the tree was probably an American Chestnut. But we also realize that is unusual. This tree was a good 30 feet high, but it was in a human’s yard, not the forest, so it was planted. Let’s hope whatever clever mix the human scientists used to keep this Chestnut from getting the Chestnut blight keeps working!

You can read more about work to restore the American Chestnut on The American Chestnut Foundation website. It’s so nice you humans are working to bring them back!



One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

We ran by this one some time ago. The leaves should be fully out, but we wanted to see if you humans recognize this tree.

Mystery #118

Check back with you later!


We had a couple of stabs at what this leaf might be, and lots of looks. Ms. Flora knew the tree’s family, but not the specific species, which we fortunately found on the tree’s label.

Dunstan Chestnut tag

A chestnut! The native American chestnut trees were killed by a fungal blight waaaay back even before Ol’ Wally’s time, in the 1900s. This was a lot of trees, approximately every fourth tree in the hardwood forests died. Some pockets of trees survived because they weren’t within wind-blowing distance of the spores of the infected trees. It’s from these trees that scientists have tried to grow a disease-resistant Chestnut hybrid species.

The Dustan Chestnut is one of these trees, a species developed by tree breeder Dr. Robert T Dunstan.

It’s rather neat that he got buds from a huge chestnut living in the midst of dying chestnuts, grafted the twigs onto other rootstock and managed to grow a chestnut hybrid that will bear chestnuts! That’s the important part here! We squirrels might get to eat chestnuts in our diet again!

Dunstan Chestnut ree in a tube

The new Dustan Chestnuts aren’t nearly so big as the old American Chestnuts, only 25 feet tall to their 100 feet, but at least it’s a tree these suburban dwellers are willing to plant and grow in tight quarters. And we get chestnuts!