CLEMENTS STATE TREE NURSERY
History is Alive and Growing
at Clements State Tree Nursery
By Leslie Fitzwater
History is often relegated to books, movies or museums, but at Clements State Tree Nursery in West Columbia, W.Va., America’s history is represented through living, growing trees.
The staff at Clements State Tree Nursery is keeping a historically important tree species from dying out altogether. The nursery’s orchard is home to adult American chestnut trees that produce blight-resistant seed. The American chestnut once was a common component of forests across the eastern United States, but by 1930 the tree was nearly eradicated by a disease called chestnut blight.
“Our American chestnut seedlings show resistance to the blight, but they are not immune,” said Nursery Superintendent Jason Huffman. “Our hope is to one day breed seedlings that are totally resistant to chestnut blight.”
Huffman’s hope is also the hope of companies and landowners throughout West Virginia and surrounding states. Each year they buy all of the 5,000 to
10,000 American chestnut seedlings the nursery produces in an effort to repopulate the species.
“Everyone I’ve ever talked to would like to see the American chestnut make a full comeback and be as plentiful as it was at the turn of the 20th century,” Huffman said. “We will continue our research and other cooperative efforts to try to make sure that happens.”
In 1948, Americans donated more than 700 boxcars of relief goods to assist the French in their recovery after World War II. The following year, the French people repaid the debt by sending 49 boxcars of gifts to America. The train was dubbed The Merci Train and the cars were divided among the then 48 states; the contents of the 49th car were split between Washington, D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii. West Virginia’s boxcar contained acorns and seedlings that grew to be what the nursery today calls “the French oak.” The nursery grows French oak seedlings not only to sell, but also to honor veterans of World War II. “On several occasions, we have shipped seedlings to veterans’ families for special plantings in remembrance of their brave loved ones,” Huffman said.
Become part of living history: Plant a seedling from Clements State Tree Nursery today.
Facts about Clements State Tree Nursery
Clements State Tree Nursery is owned and operated by the West Virginia Division of Forestry. It is the state’s only forest tree nursery.
The nursery grows forest trees - both native and introduced species that are proven to grow and prosper in West Virginia’s forests.
Hardwood seedlings grown at the nursery include hickory, walnut and several species of oak. The nursery also grows West Virginia’s state tree, the sugar maple.
Evergreen species include white, Scotch and red pine, Norway spruce and Douglas fir.
Reasons to plant seedlings include erosion control, shade, shelter, wind barriers and wildlife habitat.
If you set up a West Virginia-grown Christmas tree, chances are it began from a seedling purchased from Clements State Tree Nursery. Nursery Superintendent Jason Huffman estimates that the nursery sells 70,000 seedlings annually to the state’s Christmas tree growers. The most popular species the nursery sells are Norway spruce, Douglas fir, and Scotch and white pine.
The nursery takes orders for seedlings from September to April. Shipping begins the week of Thanksgiving and continues through April.
Seedlings are packaged in quantities of 25, perfect for planting on large plots of land or sharing with friends and neighbors.
In 2007, the nursery began using nonviolent prison inmates from the neighboring Lakin Correctional Center. The all-female crew helps with weed control and orchard cleanup and processes seedlings for shipment.
The nursery is located in West Columbia, W.Va., on W.Va. Rt. 62 just 11 miles north of Point Pleasant.
The land where the nursery sits was once owned by the grandparents of writer and humorist Mark Twain.
About the Nursery
Clements State Tree Nursery, located in Mason County along the Ohio River, sits on property once owned by the grandparents of the famous American author Mark Twain. Bare-root seedlings have been produced here for almost half a century. In recent years, the nursery has produced 1 to 2 million seedlings annually.
The nursery sells these seedlings to landowners in West Virginia and its surrounding states for the purposes of reforestation, coal mine reclamation, wildlife cover and Christmas tree production. Most of the seedling species are native to West Virginia and all are genetically suitable for success not only in West Virginia, but also in the neighboring states.
Landowners may order seedlings each year from Sept. 1 through April. Shipping begins Thanksgiving week and runs through April (weather permitting).
Seedling orders can be paid over the phone with a credit card, or by mail with a check or money order.
Quantities as small as 25 may be purchased, so whether you need to plant one acre or 50, we have the product to meet every landowner’s needs.
Why Purchase Tree Seedlings?
Seedlings are planted for many reasons including erosion control and reforestation. Trees provide shelter, wind barriers and habitat for wildlife. Landowners also may plant seedlings that one day will be used as Christmas trees.