American Chestnut

Castanea dentata

American Chestnut: Blight - Click for larger image
  • Family: Fagaceae

  • Formerly known to have a large, thick, round trunk; today tree rarely survives past size of small sprouts

  • Former height range 18-30m (60-100’); very few large specimens found now (wiped out by bark fungus that began in New York City in 1904); today’s height around 6m (20’); shoots still grow, become girdled by fungus once moderate height is reached

  • Sometimes sprouts grow from stump of blighted tree (see image to left); sprouts eventually die from fungus

  • Foreign varieties studied for ability to resist bark fungus

Photo by Jason Biggerstaff

Leaves
Twigs & Fruiting Structures
Bark
Distribution and Uses

Leaves

  • Narrow 4-7.5cm (1.5- 3”) and long 13-23cm (5- 9”)

  • Length around 3-4 times width

  • Hairless and alternate with coarse edges and sharp teeth

  • Even leaf bases, long leaf points

  • Short petioles

  • Side veins are straight parallel ending in curved tooth

  • Leaves are shiny and yellow from above; pale green from below with some hairs along midvein

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American Chestnut: Leaf - Click for larger image
American Chestnut: Buds - Click for larger imageAmerican Chestnut: Fruit - Click for larger image

Twigs & Fruiting Structures

  • Hairless twigs

  • Buds are blunt and hairless, with 2 or 3 scales

  • False end buds

  • 3 or more bundle scars

  • Flowers appear June through August; blossoms of male tree are small, in catkins of between 15-20cm (6-8”)

  • Several flattened, edible nuts (chestnuts) found in a spiny husk

  • Chestnuts are shiny, dark brown and egg-shaped

Nut photo by Jason Biggerstaff

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Bark

  • Smooth and grey when young, dark with shiny ridges when mature

Distribution & Uses

  • Prefers moist soils

  • Distributed through much of eastern United States

  • When tree dominated Eastern forests, lumber often used in furniture

  • In past, tree was main source of tannin; edible chestnuts were commercial crop; leaves used in home medicines

  • Hybrids being developed for shade, ornamentation, and wildlife

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American Chestnut: Barl - Click here for larger image