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Will New Chestnut Trees Grow at Sandra Pond?

Volunteers planted 150 nuts Saturday.

A forsestry experiment at Westborough's Sandra Pond started Saturday morning.

Volunteers planted 150 American chestnut nuts three feet apart, among three grids of 50 nuts each.

The American Chestnut Foundation organized the planting, coordinated with the Westborough Conservation Commission, said resident Brad Smith, a board member of the foundation's Massachusetts/Rhode Island chapter.

“We’re trying to figure out how to eventually get the trees back into the forest. This is a test,” Smith said.

“It’s not easy to get hardwood back into the forest once it’s gone. Nature reproduces by overloading the population. So, a chestnut tree sets up in one place for 400 years, puts out thousands of pounds of nuts, and it regenerates, because the wildlife can’t eat all of them. Now, there’s been so few trees, and there’s been so little reproduction since the blight, it’s hard to get that critical mass back.”

Volunteers planted nuts from foundation orchards in Grafton and Sterling, Smith said, as well as more advanced nuts from the national group.

Some nuts were treated with hot pepper, because “the rodents don’t like it," he said.

Animals love the untreated nuts, he said.

“It’s a really valuable, nutritional nut. It’s got a lot of protein, some carbohydrates," Smith said.

The nuts have "about (a) 2 percent survival" rate in nature, Smith said. Organizers of Saturday's planting hope for a 10 percent survival rate, he said.

“Next spring, we’ll see signs of these sprouts coming up,” Smith said.

“Next year, these will be about three feet tall."

Massachusetts/Rhode Island board member Charlotte Zampini said more plantings are expected.

“It’s a great tree for wildlife. And it’s the fastest growing native hardwood. That means it’s great for timber, it’s great for wildlife," said Zampini, a Westborough resident.

The Massachusetts/Rhode Island chapter's annual meeting and chestnut pot luck was held Sunday at the Westborough Senior Center.

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