Dunstan chestnuts

Thank you @castanea.

Can you recommend a nursery that ships named cultivar seedlings?

I’m in NY state and have never had a grafted chestnut tree die or disappoint. I’ve planted them in a pretty wide range of sites. I suspect they suffer when allowed to overbear before they are adequately established, but because I’ve not seen failure I wouldn’t know for sure. Have you seen failure of grafted trees? I’m pretty sure they do just fine in my region and being they are easy to graft, I’ve begun selling trees I grafted in my nursery. They will have both the original (seedling) and grafted variety on them, so what is there to lose?

After about 55 years of making my living from plants and soil, I am reluctant to make absolute statements in many things horticultural. I’ve turned out to be wrong too many times, often by misreading anecdote. .

The primary issue is not whether they are going to die. The primary issue is whether grafted Chinese trees will reproduce the attributes of the ortet. This issue has been studied at length by Dr Greg Miller of Empire Chestnuts/Route 9 Coop. His studies show that seedling trees from good cultivars will outproduce grafted trees. Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm in Iowa says the same thing. Many others have reached the same conclusion. My own experiences with growing chestnuts show the same thing. I have 30+ years experience growing them.

You might also ask the Dunstan folks why they quit selling grafted trees and have only been selling seedling trees for about 20 years now.

Finally, here’s a photo that contains only nuts from the Chinese cultivar ‘Jenny’. Can you identify which nuts came from a grafted tree or the ortet?

Perfect Circle Farm in Vermont sells cultivar seedlings.
Canopy Farm Management also sells seedlings of cultivars.

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Many others? I did not know so many people were studying the issue. I can’t know if what you are saying is anecdotal, and in horticulture, anecdote often prevails. Sellers of seedling trees have an axe to grind, but from a scientific standpoint it is hard for me to think of a reason a grafted tree would be less productive with chestnuts when it isn’t an issue with any other species that I’ve heard of.

My foggy recollection suggests that Dunstan warned about survival issues when I purchased trees from them 30 years ago, not productivity problems or I’m sure I wouldn’t have ordered any grafted trees. If nurseries can sell seedling trees for the same money, they are hardly objective in comparisons.

I’m not saying you aren’t right, only that your arguments aren’t very convincing to me, my grafted trees produce very well, but I don’t have a lot of comparative experience with seedlings. However, I find certainty of such claims to be suspicious. My own anecdotal experiences have too often misled me over the 50 years I’ve drawn my living from soil and plants.

Even controlled studies offer results that are suggestive but almost never conclusive. That is why results of such studies often contradict each other. As a general rule, I trust the opinion of the person who says, “I believe” more than “I know”.

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Alan, chestnuts are a different animal than any other species I’ve grafted. I’ve had chestnut grafts grow successfully for a couple of years then suddenly die. I’ve also seen growth and size differences as compared with seed grown trees. Chestnuts are also known for producing very good crops from selected seedlings. You can’t do that with apples and pears. I have about 30 seedling trees in containers waiting for warm weather so I can set them out.


I’m not arguing with a single point you are making, but once a graft fully heals on chestnuts I’ve grown they are completely undetectable and I have grown quite a few of them and planted them on numerous sites over the years and never lost a single one. That is enough of a sample to assure that survival isn’t an important problem with grafted trees- unless it shows up after about 30 years. In my climate! Unless I’ve been exceedingly lucky. I do know that grafted trees can bear very young and that is a very high energy tax, especially for fall bearing species that start to drop leaves as soon as the crop ripens. That would likely make a tree more vulnerable to winter kill as hardening off is as energy expensive as ripening a crop. Younger trees are generally more tender to winter injury and death and if they bear crop, probably more so. Remove the flowers from young grafted trees and maybe reduce mortality. Works for me.

I get that seedlings of Chestnuts grow into trees similar to the parents as do peaches and I suppose any fruit that is self fertile. Are chestnuts self-fertile? At any rate, I can understand the idea that they tend to sustain the quality of their nuts through generations, I just can’t think of a logical reason a grafted tree would lose productivity if the graft union was completely healed and invisible. I’m looking for a logical explanation.

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Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding but to me the “logical explanation” is very cut and dry and has been the whole time. Grafted Chinese chestnuts are TOO precocious for the roots they are grafted onto. They produce too many flowers which results in undersized nuts compared to the ortet and, because they spend all of that energy producing nuts they can’t even size up to their full potential, they also don’t put as much energy into vegativative growth in the first few years and thus end up stunted compared to seedings. Perhaps you could hypothetically strip the flowers the first few years. Why? We know seedlings have high quality nuts and will produce exactly when you stop needing to strip the flowers from your grafted tree

That still makes no sense to me. If you simply stripped the flowers for the first couple of years, a grafted tree should behave the same as a seedling tree in terms of relative vigor- which mine do.

ChatAI tells me that most commercially grown chestnuts are from grafted trees of named varieties. If seedling trees functioned significantly better I don’t see how this would be the case. Is my robot mistaken? Are commercial growers throwing away profits?

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I’m confused. Everything I said and what you just said agree 100%. I didn’t appeal to any magic, I just said it was wasting energy flowering. Your experience seems to support this. Not sure why it makes “no sense”. My only comment on this method was that it seems like extra work when seedlings are very nearly as good.
Now with chatGPT, I use it all the time, it makes things up all the time. I have no idea what most commercial chestnut orchards do and neither does chatGPT. It could be right or it could have just as easily said that because it knows most fruit orchards use grafted trees

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I think my robot knows of what it speaks given I just did a search and university guidelines about commercial production place a lot of emphasis on what grafted varieties are best to grow and why.

Nevertheless, if you are getting great sized nuts from seedlings, you are right- they are great for you and probably are fine for any home grower and maybe even commercial ones, but the trees aren’t hard to graft in my experience.

I never stripped flowers off of Chinese cultivars I’ve grown (grafted trees) and all have grown well. I only stripped flowers from some grafted Dunstons because of the warning about their fragility in my climate. Because I sell trees that I grow and size them up to about 2.5" diameter, 10’ tall, well branched trees, I like to sell grafted ones to justify the high prices I charge.

I’m just trying to keep facts straight here. .