More Insights: SAP’s American chestnut

Since my article A Chestnut Grows and Flowers in St. Anthony Park appeared in the Park Bugle back in May, I received a few emails with further insights about the tree and its provenance.

These emails led me to Jim Merrell, his siblings and their parents, David and Jessie Merrell, who all lived at 1511 Chelmsford for many years. According to Jim, who is now a professor at Vassar, his father planted the chestnut trees about 30 years ago with seeds from the American Chestnut Foundation. (That makes sense since St. Anthony Park resident, Charlie Burnham was one of the founders of the ACF in 1983.)

At the time, there was hope that this variety might prove to be blight-resistant and, indeed, it has long outlived susceptible chestnuts. David Merrell was a professor at the University of Minnesota, first in Zoology and later in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in St. Paul.

As for the chestnut itself, the tree continues to hang on, though it shows further signs of damage from Cryphonectria blight. Flowering time has also been delayed this year (2019), possibly due to our cold and wet spring.

—Nevin Young
University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight professor

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