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Three more of Delaware's "American" trees

Delaware's American trees.

American basswood (Tilia americana)

Native to northern Delaware (though not common), American basswood prefers deep, rich soils but can also be planted in urban areas. Because it is a nice shade tree that can reach heights of 80 feet or more, basswood should only be planted in large spaces. The wood is soft, lightweight, and used for carving. Basswood has fragrant flowers and produces a small nut favored by many animals.

American basswood has heart-shaped leaves with hard, round fruits that are suspended in clusters below its paper-thin bracts.

Delaware champion American basswood - Google earth

The champion American basswood is located near Newark and stands 106 feet tall with a circumference of 217 inches, equaling a diameter of about 69 inches. Wow, that’s almost 6 feet in diameter!


American elm (Ulmus americana)

Once an important species, the American elm has virtually disappeared due to Dutch elm disease. Other elm species less susceptible to the disease are still planted in urban areas and disease-resistant cultivars are becoming more available in the nursery trade. Elms are favorite landscape trees due to their popular umbrella-like shape and their massive size; however, the wood is not commercially valuable.

Dutch elm disease is a fungal disease spread by elm bark beetles. It was first identified in the Netherlands in 1921.

Delaware champion American elm on The Green in Dover.

The Delaware champion American elm is located on west side of The Green in Dover. It stands 115 feet tall and had a circumference of 226 inches, equal to a diameter of about 72 inches.


American chestnut - Castanea dentata

A large, fast-growing deciduous tree of the beech family native to eastern North America. As is true of all species in genus Castanea, the American chestnut produces burred fruit with edible nuts. The American chestnut was one of the most important forest trees throughout its range.

American chestnut leaf - notice the sharp-looking "saw teeth"

Just over a hundred years ago, at the turn of the twentieth century, there were nearly 4 billion American chestnut trees growing in the eastern United States, promarily in and near the Appalachian Mountain range. They were giants, among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing of trees, the wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and the nuts fed billions of birds and animals.

The largest American chestnut in Delaware was about 6 ½ miles west of Felton and measured 22’ 2” around the trunk. That's a diameter of about seven feet!

In 1904 a blight was first noticed in New York that, by the 1950s, had devastated the entire chestnut forest from Maine to Alabama. The blight effects the portion of the tree above the ground, but the roots live on and continue to send up shoots which may reach several inches in diameter and 20 feet in height. We have many examples of struggling American chestnut trees in our 300 acres of woodland at Abbotts Mill Nature Center (Tree ID #21) and a few of them are along the trail directly behind the Visitor’s Center.

Mike Rivera (Facilities & Land Steward) next to a small American chestnut tree sprout in the Blair's Pond woods.
American chestnut tree in the Lindale Woods, across the street from the Visitors Center

AMNC is a member of The American Chestnut Foundation and in conjunction with them we have established a small orchard of backcross-bred trees, just across the road from the Visitors Center.

Look for the three, waste-high, information signs.

Jim White looking up to Delaware's only known mature American chestnut

In 2019 a mature American chestnut tree was discovered at DelNature's Coverdale Farm Preserve. It stands as the only known mature American chestnut tree in Delaware, but we're still looking for more.

What to look for? The easiest thing to look for is chestnuts: If its got chestnuts and it has a straight trunk, it may very well be an American Chestnut tree. If its got chestnuts but a gnarled trunk and branches, it's probably a Chinese chestnut, which were planted extensively when the American chestnuts died out.

Source: "Big Trees of Delaware", 5th edition

This poem was originally published in “The American Chestnut” The Turk’s Cap Vol. 24:3. p.11. Pamela Crowe is a Mt. Cuba Center volunteer.

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