Previously best known for his environmental histories of Appalachia and the South, Donald Edward Davis here writes about the tree that has always most fascinated him and that he has researched most closely: the American chestnut. It is also the tree whose most dense habitat centered on Southern Appalachia and that had its greatest impact there. What a fascinating and stimulating book this is. The cast of captivating characters includes Presidents, poets, singers, and murderers. But the most amazing character is the chestnut tree itself and the way its story illuminates environmental and human issues both complex and scintillating including the current fierce competition that a few rare naturally blight-resistant American chestnuts face from both genetically engineered chestnuts and international hybrids. “Of the some 650 species of trees native to the United States, none has done more to shape America’s culture and landscape than Castanea dentata, the American chestnut. In compelling detail, author Donald Edward Davis tells the sweeping story of how this magnificent tree influenced the lives and livelihoods of countless Americans and how it once dominated vast Eastern forests as a keystone species. You will not find a better, more comprehensive account of the American chestnut―its former greatness, its tragic decline, and its hopeful comeback―than this book.” -- Charles Seabrook. “In inviting prose based on deep research in a wide array of natural archives and textual sources, Donald Edward Davis gives us the definitive history of an iconic American tree. The book explains the American chestnut's ecological role, its uses, decline, and possible resurrection, from the last glaciation to the advent of genetic engineering. Everyone living in, or interested in, eastern North America should read it.” -- J.R. McNeil. “This book is the magnum opus on the American chestnut and will likely retain that status for decades to come. Wide ground is covered from deep-time biogeography and archaeology to historical Indigenous and settler-colonial uses. . . .I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about the publication of such a masterpiece of a book.” -- James R. Veteto. This is the seventh book by Donald Edward Davis, who currently works for the Harvard Forest and lives in Washington, D.C.
Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2021. 424 pages with an Index, Notes, and illustrations. Hardback in dust jacket.