American Chestnut

Castanea dentata

Family Fagaceae


Notable Features
Leaves: Leaves spear-shaped and somewhat narrow, coarsely toothed*, paper thin, hairless and 5 to 8 inches (12½ to 21 centimeters) in length.
Twigs/Buds: Buds* small and blunt with 2 or 3 visible scales; a false end bud*. Twigs smooth and gray.
Bark: Bark smooth and gray when young, yet dark with wide shining ridges when mature.
Fruit: White flowers appear in catkins* 6 to 8 inches (15-20 centimeters) long, June through August and produce spiny, green husks in early fall. Each husk contains 2 or 3 dark, smooth, shiny nuts with 1 or 2 flattened sides.
Size/Shape: Since the appearance of the Chestnut Blight in the early 1900s, very few trees are able to reach maturity, or the point of fruit production. Most trees therefore exist as sprouts from stumps of older trees and do not exceed 15 feet (4½ meters). A few outliers of the general population may exist as full grown trees, having not come in contact with the Blight, and can reach heights of 60 to 80 feet (18-24 meters).

Location on Campus

(click for map)

Located in Sachar woods behind the Sachar International Center; also in woods behind the Charles River Apartments near a body of water branching from the Charles River.

Uses
Nuts are extremely rare because of the Chestnut Blight, but are edible, and should be collected in the fall right after the first frost splits the husks open. Remove husks and pith*, both bitter tasting, and eat the fruit inside as nuts, grind them into a flour to add to baking recipes, or candy them by simmering in a sugar syrup or coating in sugar.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.