Nut grafting experiment (and Request)

While I haven’t had much success nut grafting chestnuts so far, I’m learning each year I try. This year I’d like to experiment with nut grafting Seguin (Castanea seguinii) to Chinese Chestnut. The seguins I’ve played with were small and slow growing but produced nuts very early in their lives. If I have success, it will be interesting to see how they grow with Chinese chestnut roots.

I’ve got some chestnuts in cold stratification now. If anyone has Castanea seguinii and would be willing to cut me a half dozen scions, I’d be grateful and happy to cover any shipping cost. They don’t need to be large pencil sized scions for nut grafting. Small scions with a bud or too are enough (maybe 1/8" or so).

Also, if anyone has any experience nut grafting like this, I’d be glad to hear any tips. My issues in the past have been not giving them enough time for roots to form and controlling humidity so I don’t get mold but they take and then acclimating them to a normal humidity environment.


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Special thanks to Jim (JDARL) for the scions. I received my scions on Thursday and I’m hoping to get started with nut grafting soon. In preparation, I rewatched the Carl Mayfield video again on nut grafting chestnuts Nut Grafting Video In the past, I couldn’t really find the kind of knife he describes. I figured a regular xacto knife would be fine (maybe it is). So today, I decided to make one. I started with this chisel point xacto: I simple took it to my grinder and made it a bit narrower and ground down the other side to make it double bevel instead of a chisel point. I then used the sharpening stones I use for my grafting knives to sharpen it to a fine edge.

Well, it has begun. This afternoon I worked on the misting chamber:

Tonight I took out my Dunstans. I had 6 of them in cold stratification since mid-October. None had root radicles starting yet but I could tell they were close. Of the 6, one was moldy and not useable. One was so-so. It may or may not have germinated, and the other 4 were in very nice shape. I found the left handed grafting knife, used in my right hand, was great for cutting off the tail of the nut. The xacto blade that I modified seemed to work great. I found that the grafting jig made to use the left handed grafting knife in my right hand cutting away from myself worked pretty well with the small diameter but hard Seguin scions.

I put all 5 in sphagnum in plastic bags and hung them as shown in the Mayfield video above. Here is what one looked like before going into the bag.

I don’t know if Seguin on Dunstan are compatible and my nut grafting success has not been good in the past. I will let them sit for a month and then check them for roots and swelling buds. If it works, I’ll plant them in a rootmaker 18 express tray and put it in the misting chamber.

have a dozen more germinated Dunstan nuts on the way. I’ll nut graft those as soon as they arrive.

The nut grafting process went much smoother than in previous years. I decided to extend the project. I

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Good for you. You are well on your way. You can use a plain pocket knife too, if you ease it into a nut at room temperature. Clean the knife with alcohol before using it, and that will up the number that take…less moulds etc inside the cut.

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Those are looking good! When did you graft them?

A couple of years ago. They are outside now, several feet tall.
The downside is that if the mice or bunnies eat them, they can’t throw up another shoot…so some got eaten.
I graft higher up now, above the mice…unless I want pollen in a pot, a portable pollen source for hand pollinating. They may flower the first year, so easy to move in a pot at that stage. I don’t have good winter storage, so try to plant them the first year, when I can.

You need a pretty good bunnie cage, or, sigh, they get eaten

This one is an epicotyle graft, into the new shoot.

This one is a nut graft on oak, oak on oak. Eye candy for you, since it’s storming today and too nasty to go out much.

Is that where you germinate them and get top growth with no light causing the stem to turn white and become more amenable to a graft? I think I read about that somewhere.

Yes, the ones into the new shoot are more likely to take if you put the planted nut in a dark place. Take them out when the shoot is straight and white, graft right away.
very white and ready to graft
Graft made but not wrapped yet

graft about 2 months old


Hey guys,

What is the advantage to grafting to a nut?

Is there the same incompatibility issue years away that may/may not occur with grafted chestnuts onto a seedling?

I’ve watched this video of Carl now and there’s so much talking vs. actual workshop that I moved a few times twenty minutes.

@jocelyn I see your grafts in bags hanging near a window. On this video Carl doesn’t want any direct light to hit his bags. Probably not any big deal I am guessing? A north window for example.

I’ll have to say this is interesting. I read a thread you (Jocelyn) did some time ago as I vividly recall but I do not understand the advantage.

Tom Wahl at Red Fern Farm who has to be one of the most well known chestnut authorities among circles has told me that grafting chestnuts is not a good idea due to time investment and delayed graft incompatibility.

Is this essentially rooting something that otherwise will not root?

Thanks to each of you.


I’ve had no success grafting chestnut seedlings although I know it is possible. Chestnuts seem to respond to injury (the graft) by pushing up new shoots from the roots rather than pushing out the graft. In general, chestnuts seem to be more true to see than many other trees so why graft them?

I don’t for the most part. In this particular case, I’m experimenting. Not with the concept of nut grafting in general, I’m just using that as a technique.

The Dunstan seedlings I’ve grown just grow like mad. The Castanea seguinii I’ve had have been very slow. I bought a couple seedlings from the wildlife group. I containerized them and grew them for a season on my deck and they produced nuts very quickly but had very little growth. The second season, I planted those nuts in Rootmaker express tray 18s. I also brought the parent trees in from my cold room early and put them under lights as well.

I was also grafting some apple scions to seedlings indoors that winter. Some of the apple trees got some disease that caused the leaves to wilt quickly and they all died once they caught it. Other apple seedlings that I grafted were fine and showed no symptoms. The Castenea Seguinni got the same disease. Both the parent trees and all of the seedlings died except one. The growth of that one seems much more like the Allegheny Chinquapins I grow from seed. It is a very small slow grower.

The Willdlife group is not selling them this year and I could not find another source for nuts. So, I decided to do this experiment. I don’t know if the Dunstan cross is compatible with Castenea Seguinni or not, but if it is, what will the resulting tree do. With Castena Seguinni still be a slow grower on Dunstan roots? Will it still produce nuts early in its lifecycle or will I need to wait for 5+ years for nuts. If it produces nuts soon, I’ll have a nut source to grow seedlings.

JDARL was also kind enough to send me a few nuts. I’ll probably try the epicotyle grafting method s well.

The only other reason I can think of to nut graft is if there is a specific nut characteristic you want. For example Auburn has patented a few varieties of chestnuts with specific characteristics. They must have some way to clonal propagate them. I was told that some of them are nut grafted. I believe they are all Chinese. chestnuts (Castanea mollissima), just a specific variety. I’m not sure if the same compatibility issues would exist.

Grafting to a nut is mostly to get a potted pollen source to breed two trees that are not close together, or because you don’t have rootstock ready and got some scions you really want.
The incompatability thingy is a bit overrated, in my opinion.
The bags in the window get some heat from the sun which hurries them along. Also, plants eat light, so fuel for growth. (I’m north, so the sun is not as strong) These are in a south west window.
I don’t know if they root, but approach grafting has been tried to get them on their own roots eventually.
So far, I haven’t had delayed graft failures, but I’ve not got them for that many years yet.
The issue for me is to gather up genes that allow hardiness this far north, and long dormancy so they don’t wake up in one of our multiple winter thaws and lose hardiness…and then die in the next cold snap. I tend to place some grafts high, above the mice, in established trees, for pollinators too.

I grow all my trees in root pruning containers until they are planted in the field. You’ve got me thinking. I wonder if a nut grafted chestnut tree, that is being planted out of a container, could be planted with the graft well below the soil line causing it to eventually grow its own roots like apples will.

I think some genotypes will, but it will take several years. I tried an Ashdale done that way, but will have to play with it some more, as I lost it.

I was thinking rather than an inarch or similar thing, simply to grow the root grafted tree in root pruning containers for a season or two and then planting it with about 6" of trunk in the ground. maybe a cut or two to the trunk under ground with some rooting hormone applied.

I know this works with apples but they are easy to root. In fact, the master grafter in a class I took said that one way he gets apples on their own roots is to graft to clonal rootstock upside down and plant it well below the graft. He says the clonal rootstock will support the tree for a while but will eventually die because it is planted upside down. In the meantime, he says that the apple forms enough of its own roots to support itself without the rootstock.

That sounds like fun. Why don’t you try it and see what happens :slight_smile:
Some times the learning is as much fun as the results.

That’s what I say Jack. Give it a shot.

Thanks for answering my question guys.