2021 Lecture

"Giving Character to the Landscape":

An Environmental History of the American Chestnut

by Donald E. Davis


Nov. 3, 2021 at 1 pm EDT via Zoom
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Dr. Donald E. Davis will present the 2021 Lynn W. Day Distinguished Lectureship in Forest History. His talk, "'Giving Character to the Landscape:' An Environmental History of the American Chestnut," will offer a fresh look at the iconic North American tree species.

Before 1910, the American chestnut was one of the most common trees in the eastern United States. Historical evidence suggests the natural distribution of the American chestnut extended across more than 400,000 square miles of territory, an area stretching from eastern Maine to southeast Louisiana. Some of the tree's history dates to the very founding of our country, making the story of the American chestnut an integral part of American environmental and cultural history down to today. Ironically, the tree that most piqued the emotions of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americans has virtually disappeared after a blight fungus was introduced during the late nineteenth century, which rendered the tree "functionally extinct." Although its eradication caused one of the greatest ecological catastrophes since the last ice age, considerable folklore and sentiment about the American chestnut remains. Over the last several decades, considerable effort has been expended to try to restore this iconic species to the forest, though not without controversy. Dr. Davis will explore all this and more in his talk.

Donald E. Davis is an independent scholar and the author of The American Chestnut An Environmental History (University of Georgia Press, 2021). He has authored or edited seven books, including the award-winning Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians (University of Georgia Press, 2000, 2020). Davis was the founding member of the Georgia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation and currently works for the Harvard Forest as a part-time research scholar.

The Lynn W. Day Distinguished Lectureship in Forest and Conservation History is sponsored by the Forest History Society, the Duke University Department of History, and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

For more information please contact Dr. James Lewis, Forest History Society historian, at (919) 682-9319.

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