Castanea mollissima
Common Name: Chinese chestnut
Type: Tree
Family: Fagaceae
Native Range: Korea and China from Beijing to Yunnan
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 40.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 40.00 to 60.00 feet
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Shade Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Deer

Culture

Grow in moist, well-drained, loams in full sun. Tolerant of summer heat and humidity. Established trees do well in dry conditions. If growing this tree at least in part for its edible nuts, planting more than one tree facilitates cross-pollination and generally produces a more abundant nut crop.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Castanea mollissima, commonly called Chinese chestnut, is native to China and possibly Korea. It is a medium sized, low-branched, deciduous tree that typically grows 40’ (less frequently to 60’) tall with an open rounded crown. It is grown as an ornamental tree and/or for its edible nuts. It is noted for its resistance to chestnut blight which has nearly wiped out the native American chestnut (Castanea dentata). Chinese chestnut features oblong-lanceolate, coarsely toothed, dark green leaves (5-8” long) that are soft green and pubescent beneath. Leaves turn varying shades of yellow in fall. Aromatic monoecious creamy yellowish-white flowers appear in catkins in late spring (June in St. Louis), the male flowers located at the top portion of the catkin and the female flowers located near the base. Flowers can be quite showy, albeit for a brief period. Flowers are followed by edible chestnuts which are encased in spiny dehiscent burs (2-3” diameter), usually 2-3 nuts per bur. Although Chinese chestnuts are sometime sold in farmers’ markets, it is the Spanish chestnut, Castanea sativa, that produces the chestnuts most often sold commercially.

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 comes from the Latin word for soft, in reference to the pubescent twigs and leaf undersides.

Problems

Chinese chestnut is resistant, but not immune, to chestnut blight (Endothia parasitica) which is a fatal fungal bark disease. Also susceptible to leaf spot, anthracnose and twig and stem cankers. Weevils can be a problem in some areas.

Garden Uses

A beautiful specimen shade tree for lawns. Unfortunately, as is the case with the fruit of the sweet gum but perhaps more so, falling chestnuts can pose a significant litter problem, and often make walking barefoot in the lawn a real adventure. On the positive side, the chestnuts may be harvested for roasting on an open fire as it were.