How’s this for a lucky shot? I happen to be standing right there with my camera up and aimed just as this rotted old tree snaps and begins to topple?
Ok. You got me. It’s snagged on another tree outside the frame. Who knows how long it’s been hung up in mid-fall? The still healthily brown exposed heartwood looks to me as though it hasn’t been exposed to the weather all that long, but I’m no judge. I can’t even tell you what kind of tree it is. An oak of some kind or a pine. On the Cape, scrub oaks and pitch pines are the predominant trees in woods like this, a town conservation area seven or eight miles north of here in Orleans.
I can tell you what kind of tree it probably isn’t.
An American chestnut.
I know this because the odds are against it. The newspaper article that inspired me to visit the woods says there are only five or so adult chestnuts growing here.
There aren’t a lot of adult American chestnuts anywhere. That’s because for over a hundred years there’s been a blight loose in the land that kills American chestnuts before they can grow tall enough to reproduce.
Somewhere out here there are chestnut trees that blossom and drop nuts.
I didn’t see them. They must be off the paths with the poison ivy and deer ticks.
I went to the woods to blog deliberately about chestnuts. I got tired of letting newspaper reporters do all my journalism for me. I’d hoped to interview a chestnut for myself. I failed. There were a couple of beech trees that were willing to talk to me, but not on the record. I’ll have to leave it to the professionals once again.
Read all of Susan Milton’s story in the Cape Cod Times.