JESSUP, Md. — Maryland inmates are growing American chestnut seedlings for a group hoping to restore the once dominant tree.

Inmates at the Patuxent Institution near Jessup plan to hand over 600 seedlings to the American Chestnut Foundation on Wednesday. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services says the 18-inch seedlings were grown in a prison greenhouse for the foundation. In addition to providing seedlings for restoration efforts, inmates receive a certificate for completing Master Gardener coursework.

The American chestnut was known as the “redwood of the East” before a blight struck early in the 20th century. The fungus was believed to have come from chestnut trees imported from Asia and by the 1950s the tree was all but extinct. The foundation is now trying to develop trees resistant to the blight.

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