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American Chestnut

Castanea dentata

Family: Fagaceae

  • Dry forests, although becoming much more rare due to fungal blight, Cryphonectria parasitica
American Chestnut tree
  • Before 1900, was a dominant tree in Northeastern forests
  • Since 1900, a blight epidemic of Asiatic origin has decimated the population
  • Blight girdles trees when they reach moderate size, so chestnuts today are mostly shrubby sprouts from old stumps
  • Blunt buds
photo copyright Jason Biggerstaff, 2004

new American Chestnut shoots growing out of an older tree

American Chestnut branch
  • Large, lance-like leaves with coarse teeth
  • Alternate
American Chestnut leaf
photo copyright Jason Biggerstaff, 2004
photo copyright Jason Biggerstaff, 2004
Reproductive structures (flowers, fruit):
  • Flowers July-August: male in catkins
  • Fruits September-October: several nuts in each spiny husk

Chestnut branches can be used to make a strong roof for a shelter; however, because chestnuts are so rare, it should only be used if there are no other options. Instead you should admire this special tree you have found!

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