On Monday, June 22, BTLT welcomed Larry Totten of the American Chestnut Foundation (ACF) to the Tarbox Preserve in Topsham. The ACF is a national organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the native chestnut tree as well as to cultivate and plant blight-resistant trees. Totten, a member of the Maine chapter, brought twelve saplings grown at the University of Maine-Orono. With the help of Stewardship Manager Margaret Gerber, BTLT summer intern Dylan Sloan, and CREA summer intern Alex Gates, the Tarbox Preserve is now home to those twelve chestnut saplings, which will eventually grow into a small grove.
The Chestnut tree is native to the eastern United States. “[The tree grows on the] eastern seaboard,” said Totten. “More in the mountains than the coast, along the Appalachian Mountains and all the way uphill.” Although the tree does grow in the wild in Maine, the ACF’s work is vital in ensuring that blight-resistant trees can be introduced to coastal environments such as midcoast Maine.
Totten and the rest of the Maine chapter of the ACF often reach out to organizations such as the BTLT inquiring about possible locations to plant chestnut seedlings. When the BTLT suggested the Tarbox Preserve and brought him out to take a look at it, he had a feeling it would do the trick.
“[This spot] had some good decent soil on top, and it appeared to be well-drained,” said Totten. The clearing, which is just a few hundred yards from the parking lot, receives direct sunlight and drains well because it is on top of a small hill. Hopefully, the prime location will yield healthy trees that will quickly grow out of their support tubes. However, it’s hard to estimate at what rate these trees will develop.
“It’s so hard to define as a single answer. In ideal soil, these seedlings will be out of their planting tubes (around 4 feet) by the end of the summer,” said Totten. “If they get enough water and they like the soil…they’ll get out of the tube. But then you have to worry about deer eating the leaves!”
The trees at Tarbox Preserve are the offspring of wild American chestnuts discovered and preserved by the American Chestnut Foundation. They will hopefully grow to adulthood before the fungal blight gets to them.
“These [saplings] are all wild stock. Elsewhere in Maine, we’ve got 45,000 trees in the ground that are a fifth-generation crossbreed from the Chinese,” said Totten. “[All of the candidates] will be injected with blight. The blight kills most of them, but if we end up with two blight-resistant trees, we’re good. All you need is two!”
One of the ACF’s largest projects is experimenting with disease resistance in chestnut trees. Recently, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York has a breakthrough in injecting wheat genes into a Chestnut tree for increased disease resistance. The specimen is still awaiting governmental approval, but if it is given the green light it could be the “next big thing” for chestnut reforestation on the east coast.
“We have three different programs going, and [disease resistance] one of them” said Totten. “Another is gene preservation, which is in a sense what we’re doing here—but I hope it’s going to be more than that!”
Indeed, as the years go by this grove of chestnut trees will hopefully do much more than preserve the chestnut gene pool—they will also be a beautiful feature for visitors to the Tarbox Preserve to enjoy. Although it will be more than a few years before these trees grow to adulthood, this partnership between the BTLT and the ACF will yield a gorgeous chestnut grove in the future.
The Southern Midcoast is full of trails, boat launches, scenic hikes, and paddling opportunities. Whether you’re looking for a five-minute walk or a five-mile kayak, you can find some fun in our area. To provide comprehensive guides to all the fun in our area throughout the year, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust partners with Get Active Southern Midcoast. The summer 2020 trail guide can be accessed HERE.
The Get Active Southern Midcoast guide offers a wide variety of ideas for you and your family to get out and enjoy the outdoors at low to no cost in Brunswick, Topsham, Bath, West Bath, Harpswell, Phippsburg, Woolwich, Westport Island, and Georgetown. You can find trails, sites for bird watching, swimming spots, and more all in one place. Click here to visit the website.
This year, Get Active Southern Midcoast is offering a fun Summer Challenge to get you out and enjoying the beautiful recreational resources that our area has to offer.
Join the Southern Midcoast Get Active Summer Challenge 2020!
Download a card by clicking here.
Fill a row or the entire card, substitute an activity if needed. When you complete an activity X it off and write the date. Once complete mail to: Access Health 66 Baribeau Dr, Suite 7 Brunswick, ME 04011
You’ll be entered in our monthly raffle, through September 30, 2020.
COVID-19 SAFETY TIPS:
• Do not visit if you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19
• Stay at least 6 feet away from other people at all times; have a face covering if needed
• Avoid busy parks & trails – have a plan B
• Wash your hands when you can, bring hand sanitizer, cover your cough
• Be prepared for limited access to restrooms
• Share the trail, warn others as you pass
Access Health • Bath YMCA • Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust • Cathance River Education Alliance • City of Bath • Harpswell Heritage Land Trust • Kennebec Estuary Land Trust • Mid Coast Hospital • Phippsburg Land Trust • People Plus • Six Rivers New England Mtn. Bike Assoc. • Spectrum Generations • Town of Brunswick • Town of Harpswell • Town of Topsham
I’m Dylan Sloan, a rising junior at Bowdoin College, and I’m thrilled to be interning for the Land Trust this summer! I have an interest in nonprofit work and I’m looking forward to experiencing what it’s like to work in a local nonprofit organization for a few months by helping out with tasks across the board, from communications to stewardship and everything in between. I’m particularly excited about opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beautiful land managed by the BTLT through stewardship projects, as well as getting a sense of how the Land Trust both has been and plans to keep adjusting programs and operations due to COVID-19.
At Bowdoin, I’m an economics major with a minor in Chinese. Outside of the classroom, I’m a managing editor for the Bowdoin Orient, the school’s newspaper—in fact, I actually first found out about BTLT after writing an article about the organization last spring! In my free time, I’m an avid triathlete. I completed my first Ironman in Santa Rosa, California last May, and I’m currently signed up for my next big race in Old Orchard, Maine at the end of the summer. (I’m hoping that by getting familiar with the Land Trust’s trails and preserves, I can add some new running routes to my arsenal!) My favorite thing about going to school in Maine is getting to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery, and I’m thrilled to be able to spend the summer in Brunswick getting outside and engaging with the outdoors through this internship.
My career plans—and even my major—are still very much up in the air, and I have little idea of what I want to do after graduation. However, the work that the BTLT does fascinates me, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to get some real experience working in a nonprofit setting and gain a better sense of how a land trust operates. I hope that the work I do this summer will help better inform me on which directions I might go after graduating from Bowdoin in two years, and perhaps start me on a path to pursuing work in the nonprofit sector as a career.
Red Tomato Mulch Experiment in CGG
By: Lily Hatrick
The volunteers of the Common Good Garden (CGG), under the leadership of Common Good Garden Coordinator Dev Culver, are trying a mulching experiment on the tomato plants this season.
The tomatoes were planted in rows with a PVC pipe structure built to prevent the tomatoes from resting on the ground. After planting the tomatoes, a Master Gardener Volunteer and CGG volunteer, suggested using red “mulch” as it is beneficial for improving the growth of tomatoes. It was a bit tricky to install the red “mulch” after the tomatoes were already in the ground, but the challenge was taken up by the volunteer work team.
Researchers at Clemson University report that red “mulch” has a measurable impact on tomato plant productivity. Red “mulch” reflects sunlight back onto the tomato plant amplifying the green light spectrum. Amplifying the green light spectrum encourages tomato plants to grow leaves faster and in turn provides an earlier and larger fruit crop. The light reflected onto the plant triggers the release of a specific plant protein. This protein causes the crop yield to increase and reportedly makes the tomatoes even more delicious.
Mulch has the added benefits of suppressing weeds that compete with plants for nutrients, creating a warmer soil environment and increasing water retention decreasing the need for frequent watering. To test the impact of red “mulch”, the volunteers have one row of tomatoes set up using black plastic cover. This row will serve as our control group in this experiment. Next time you are at the TSCG, drop by and take a look at the red “mulch” experiment.
Lily Hatrick is a rising junior at Brunswick High School (BHS). In April she joined the team of volunteers that farm the Common Good Garden at TSCG. Lily and Dev are working together to develop Lily’s volunteer time into an experiential learning program supported by BHS.