Virtual Lecture: "Giving Character to the Landscape:" An Environmental History of the American Chestnut

James Lewis's picture
North Carolina,
November 3, 2021
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Social History / Studies

Donald Edward Davis will present this year's 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. The talk will be given over Zoom on Nov. 3 at 1 pm ET. The talk will last about 40 minutes, followed by a Q&A session. The event is free but you must register to participate in the Q&A session. You can learn more and register at:

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. The story of the American chestnut is an integral part of environmental and cultural history stretching back centuries. 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 that 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 Edward Davis is an independent scholar and the author of the new book The American Chestnut An Environmental History (University of Georgia Press, 2021). He has authored or edited seven books, including Southern United States: An Environmental History. His second book, Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians, won the prestigious Philip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award. He is currently employed by the Harvard Forest as a part-time research scholar and lives in Washington, D.C.

Contact Info: 

James Lewis, Forest History Society