Castanea dentata
Common Name: American chestnut
Type: Tree
Family: Fagaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 50.00 to 75.00 feet
Spread: 50.00 to 75.00 feet
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Description: Yellow-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Flower: Insignificant
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Grow in moist, well-drained loams in full sun. Species plants should not be planted as ornamentals due to susceptibility to blight. Research is ongoing for developing disease resistant varieties.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Castanea dentata, commonly called American chesnut, was once a major component of the Eastern hardwood forest. It is almost extinct in the wild now, having succumbed to chestnut blight, a bark fungal disease that probably entered the U.S. in a shipment of nursery stock from Japan in the late 1890s. American chestnut now persists mostly in the form of sprouts from old stumps and root systems. Typically the sprouts grow up and possibly flower and fruit for several years before dying back from the blight. Before blight introduction, mature trees typically reached 50-75’ (occasionally to 100’) tall with globular spreading crowns. Oblong-lanceolate, toothed, dull green leaves (6-10” long) turn shades of yellow in fall. Aromatic creamy yellow-white male flowers are densely clustered in slender catkins (4-8” long). Female flowers appear in smaller inconspicuous catkins. Blooms in June. Small nuts (hazel nut size) are sweet and edible, and are encased in spiny burrs (2-3” diameter). H. W. Longfellow’s poem “The Village Blacksmith” begins with the line “Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands….” in reference to this once stately and popular American tree.

Genus name comes from the Latin name for this tree which was derived from the town of Castania in Thessaly where the trees reportedly grew in abundance.

Specific epithet means toothed in reference to the toothed leaves.

Problems

Chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica formerly Endothia parasitica). Also susceptible to leaf spots, anthracnose and powdery mildew.

Garden Uses

None for the species. Disease resistant varieties, to the extent available, may be planted as shade trees or used in native plant gardens/areas.