I found one hidden in plain sight – maybe. I was wrong when I said that I would never seen a big American Chestnut. In fact, I had seen it, many times, but didn’t look close enough. I actually had noticed the big tree before, but I rode past it on my bike or ran past it w/o stopping or looking closely. I just assumed it was a big oak tree, maybe a chestnut oak, which has similar leaves.
Back in October I was walking (instead of running or biking) near the Washington Monument and walked under the tree. The bark wasn’t right for an oak tree, I thought. The leaves looked like the pictures of chestnut leaves I has seen, although I never had seen a live one. I almost just forgot about it, as I probably has a few times before, but I noticed that the Park Rangers were nearby, so I asked them about the tree. They didn’t know, but promised to consult the guy who knew all the trees. I left my email address, not really expecting a reply. I got a reply telling me that it was an American chestnut.
I don’t know for sure if that is true and I have trouble believing it. I waited until it leafed out again this spring. I won’t be here in fall to check for chestnuts. It looks like the pictures I have seen. Of course, it could be some kind of European hybrid. It is a nice big tree, in any case.