The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation is a 501C-3 non-profit charitable organization of men and women who do not want to lose this tree forever. Our mission is to restore a 100% pure Ozark chinquapin back to its native range with resistance to chestnut blight. We are raising awareness through education and outreach about the importance of the tree and our mission to save and restore this keystone species back to our forest for wildlife and our children to inherit. Learn more about Ozark chinquapin
Our Recovery Action Plan involves:
- Finding surviving trees
- Blight resistance testing
- Utilizing science in genetics: Breeding resistant trees
- Raise public awareness through education
- Establishing Research Plots
- Making seed available to public for reintroduction
- Restoring the native range in partnership with National, State, and local agencies and private landowners
Ozark Chinquapin Foundation Strategic Plan
The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation’s strategy to save and restore the tree is organized into 3 initiatives: Breeding, Restoration, and Public Engagement.
1. Genetic Resistance Breeding Program
Breeding To Produce Populations of Trees Enriched For Resistance to Blight
The restoration strategy we use offers a real solution and is based in science. Genetic variation has been the basis of applied tree improvement programs since the 1950s and we are using the same genetic principals and concepts of traditional tree breeding to restore the Ozark chinquapin. A tremendous amount genetic variation can be found in natural forest stands. High levels of genetic diversity increase the chance of rare alleles (gene variants) & combinations that can infer disease resistant to a tree. Blight resistance is rare; found in only 0.01-3% of Ozark chinquapin trees. Resistance to blight for chinquapin is quantitative—meaning, it’s the result of many different genes, each making a small contribution to a greater overall effect. This works in our favor– as opposed to Single-Gene resistance, which is not durable over time. Utilizing natural genetic resistance offers the only durable solution to address current and future threats the tree will face.
Resistant “plus trees” selected across the range make up the foundation of our breeding program and form the starter population of resistant trees we use to develop genetically improved seedlings. Open-pollinated resistant parent trees on research plots supply resistant seed for OCF Members to plant on their private land. They also supply blight resistant Ozark chinquapin seed for Restoration Plantings.
Breeding Program Activities
- SCIENCE: Breeding to develop trees enriched for genetic resistance to the blight
- Manual cross-pollination of blight resistant trees throughout the native range
- Blight Testing to evaluate resistance
- Locating trees
- Establishment and Maintenance of Research Plots for breeding activities and gene conservation
- Seed collection and distribution
Blight resistance testing conducted at the Missouri Botanical Garden Genetic Conservation Lab in St. Louis, Missouri (2019 and 2021, Leslie Bost) show we’ve successfully developed trees with high levels of resistance to chestnut blight.
To date, we’ve established 18 Research Plots across 3 states, mailed tens of thousands of seed to members, and planted hundreds of trees.
The OCF Range-Wide Restoration Initiative Strategic Plan—Final Stage
Our strategy is to select core areas with the most potential for restoration and establish Restoration Plantings at these sites. Restoration Plantings will function as dispersal sites for blight resistant Ozark chinquapin to the surrounding adjacent forests and woodlands. This encourages natural selection and open pollination so the trees can recruit naturally on their own over time.
The criteria for choosing a target site will be heavily blighted forests and woodlands with lingering wild populations of Ozark chinquapin. There’s a higher frequency of blight resistant trees in these areas because the blight fungus has likely killed most of the trees that were highly susceptible. By establishing resistant trees in close proximity to lingering chinquapin in a natural stand, there is now an opportunity for those trees to open-pollinate and regenerate offspring.
Restoration Program Activities
- Establish Restoration Plantings & monitor them
- Manage Restoration Plantings (water, protect seed from animal predation and insects)
- Encourage natural regeneration by removing some surrounding trees to open up canopy and provide light
- Nominate “core areas” with highest potential & priority for restoration
- Breeding to incorporate and retain local genetics of the wild Ozark chinquapin populations in forests of Restoration Sites
- Adapt and make adjustments to management plans as we learn new information and gain insights from monitoring
- Continue to develop and provide support to regional OCF leadership overseeing Restoration initiatives in their states
In 2020, the OCF established its first Restoration Planting on Arkansas Forestry land in Carroll County, AR. We named the plot ‘Lucky Hollow’ after a nearby hollow. The following year in 2021 we added more trees to the plot. 83% of the trees we planted are alive today and expected to start producing nuts and pollen in just a few years.
In the winter of 2021, blight testing was done to evaluate some of the trees growing at Lucky Hollow and on Research Plots in Missouri (Leslie Bost, Oxalic Acid Leaf Disc Assay). The tree that tested the highest blight resistance in the study is a restoration tree growing at Lucky Hollow right now. We are encouraged by this good news.
3. Public Engagement
OCF Members, Volunteers and Donors
The heart of our grassroots effort is the conservation minded men and women invested in the story and legacy of the Ozark chinquapin and its intrinsic value to the culture and ecology of the Ozarks. We all come from different backgrounds but share a common interest in that we are united in our vision to each make a contribution to save and restore the Ozark chinquapin. For us, that contribution may be time or financial gift, and most importantly: the participation in restoration.
Since 2007 the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation has been mailing seed to Members which they plant on their private land. The OCF keeps a database tracking the genetic pedigree of the seed for each member. The seed is carefully packaged by hand and shipped with instructions on planting and care. For $30 anyone can become a member.
OCF Members are helping us achieve small-scale reintroduction of the species at the private landowner level and participate in long-term field trials where the trees are naturally challenged by the blight in a variety of environments. In addition to that, Members’ donations help fund the operations of our Resistance Breeding Program.
Donations support the operation of every facet of our organization and without your support we would not be where we are today in our progress towards restoring the Ozark chinquapin tree to its native range.