National Geographic : 1990 Feb
the tall snags before they could become lightning rods. Names on a map testify to the tree's onetime prominence in the Smokies: Chestnut Cove, Chest nut Branch, Big Chestnut Bald, Little Chestnut Ridge, Lower and Upper Chestnut Flats, Chestnut Top. Glenn Cardwell was born in Greenbrier, within the present park borders, in 1930. Now he is a naturalist here. "It took the old-timers two days to get to Knoxville with a wagonload of chestnuts, a day to set up and sell them, two more days to come back home." A family would eat what it didn't sell and free its hogs each autumn to feed in the groves. With its hot, nearly smokeless flame, chest nut became the preferred fire wood for moonshiners: no point sending a smoke signal to help revenuers find your still. most likely on nursery stock brought in from Asia. In 1904 forester Her man Merkel noticed that some thing was killing chestnut trees at the Bronx Zoo. That something proved to be a lethal fungus that invaded through wounds and at the base of dead branches. It grew beneath the bark, extending fine tendrils in white mycelial fans. These fans blocked the passage of water and nutrients. A canker could girdle saplings in months, the base of a centuries-old mam moth in a few years. Unlike the Asian chestnut, which had evolved to survive the blight, American trees lacked natural resistance. Blight swept the forests, unstoppable. By February 1912, when the governor of Pennsylvania con vened that state's Chestnut Blight Commission to "repel the I Y"'