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Castanea dentata - (Marshall.)Borkh.

Common Name American Sweet Chestnut
Family Fagaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Dry, gravelly or rocky, mostly acid soils[43]. This species is virtually extinct in America due to chestnut blight[11].
Range Eastern N. America - Maine and Ontario to Michigan, Georgia and Arkansas.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Castanea dentata American Sweet Chestnut


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Castanea dentata American Sweet Chestnut
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jean-Pol_GRANDMONT

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Castanea dentata is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 15 m (49ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

C. americana.

Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Chocolate  Coffee  Oil

Seed - raw or cooked[2, 62, 63, 102, 117]. Rather on the small side, but these are the sweetest seeds of any species in this genus[183]. The seed contains about 7% fat, 11% protein[159]. It can be dried, ground into powder and then be added to cereals when making bread, cakes etc[213]. A delicious oil can be extracted from the seed by crushing the nuts, boiling them in water and then skimming off the oil as it comes to the surface[213]. It can be used as a topping for various puddings[213]. The roasted nut can be used as a coffee substitute and a chocolate substitute can also be made from it[183] (no further details).

Medicinal Uses

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Astringent  Expectorant

A warm water infusion of the leaves has been used to calm the respiratory nerves and promote expectoration[213, 257]. The infusion has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough but modern opinion is that the leaves are no more than a mild astringent[213].

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Other Uses

Dye  Oil  Tannin  Wood

The bark is a good source of tannin[46, 61, 171, 223]. The dried leaves contain 9% tannin[213]. The wood and the seed husks also contain tannin[223]. The husks contain 10 - 13% tannin[223]. A brown dye is obtained from the bark[257]. Wood - soft, not strong, light, very durable, liable to warp. It weighs 28lb per cubic foot. Easy to split, it is used for making cheap furniture, fence posts, in construction etc[61, 82, 117, 171, 229, 235].

Cultivation details

Prefers a good well-drained slightly acid loam but succeeds in dry soils and in hot sunny sites[1, 11, 188, 200]. Once established, it is very drought tolerant[11, 200]. Very tolerant of highly acid, infertile dry sands[200]. Averse to calcareous soils but succeeds on harder limestones[11, 200]. Although it is very winter-hardy, this species only really thrives in areas with hot summers[200]. A tree at Kew in 1985 was 15 metres tall and thriving[11]. At one time widely cultivated in N. America for its edible seed, it is now virtually extinct in the wild due to chestnut blight[11]. There are some named varieties[183]. Trees are possibly becoming resistant, some suckering stands in America are producing fruit[11]. Suckers often reach 4 - 6 metres tall before succumbing to blight, but they rarely manage to produce fruit[229]. An excellent soil-enriching understorey in pine forests[200]. Flowers are produced on wood of the current year's growth[229]. Plants are fairly self-sterile[200]. They hybridize freely with other members of this genus[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].

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Propagation

Seed - where possible sow the seed as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame or in a seed bed outdoors[78]. The seed must be protected from mice and squirrels. The seed has a short viability and must not be allowed to become dry. It can be stored in a cool place, such as the salad compartment of a fridge, for a few months if it is kept moist, but check regularly for signs of germination. The seed should germinate in late winter or early spring. If sown in an outdoor seedbed, the plants can be left in situ for 1 - 2 years before planting them out in their permanent positions. If grown in pots, the plants can be put out into their permanent positions in the summer or autumn, making sure to give them some protection from the cold in their first winter[K].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Castanea alnifoliaBush Chinkapin30
Castanea crenataJapanese Chestnut30
Castanea henryi 30
Castanea mollissimaChinese Chestnut32
Castanea ozarkensisOzark Chinkapin30
Castanea pumilaChinquapin, Ozark chinkapin41
Castanea pumila asheiChinquapin41
Castanea sativaSweet Chestnut, European chestnut52
Castanea seguiniiChinese Chinquapin30
Castanea speciesChestnut Hybrids42
Castanea x neglectaChinknut30

 

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Expert comment

Author

(Marshall.)Borkh.

Botanical References

1143200

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

griselda   Fri Dec 16 2005

In the south of England, sweet chestnut is planted extensively in coppiced woodlands. These are lopped down to ground level when the trunks or stems have reached 20 – 30 feet in height (perhaps every 10 or 15 years) and the pole timber used for fencing, pit props, building work, etc. Coppices are easily recognised by the multiple growths coming from one root area, so the wood has a tufty look. Usually an area of an acre or so is cut and left to regrow, and then an adjoining area would be cut next, so the wood has patches with different ages of growth. The same system is used in France but there they can cut more frequently, perhaps as often as each 7 or 8 years in a warm district, which is obviously a more profitable use of the land. Other species such as oak or birch which have found their way in are often left standing. Perhaps the coppicing helped valuable oak to grow straight to produce fine timber which could only be cut after a much longer time, maybe 100 years or more. This is a medieval industry/technology and threatened by the onslaught of plastic products or factory-produced items nowadays. Many of the woodlands are neglected – labour is too expensive and there is a less avid market for these timber products. However, it is these same woods which are filled with the famous and devastatingly beautiful wild English bluebells each spring, and there are living in the woods many shy creatures – boar, deer, badgers, etc. The sweet chestnut woodlands did in the old days provide whole families with a livelihood...cutting the timber, de-barking it if necessary other preparatory work, and collecting and selling the nuts in the autumn. Here in Kent I knew of one such family still working the woodlands, about 5 years ago.

griselda   Fri Dec 16 2005

In the south of England, sweet chestnut is planted extensively in coppiced woodlands. These are lopped down to ground level when the trunks or stems have reached 20 – 30 feet in height (perhaps every 10 or 15 years) and the pole timber used for fencing, pit props, building work, etc. Coppices are easily recognised by the multiple growths coming from one root area, so the wood has a tufty look. Usually an area of an acre or so is cut and left to regrow, and then an adjoining area would be cut next, so the wood has patches with different ages of growth. The same system is used in France but there they can cut more frequently, perhaps as often as each 7 or 8 years in a warm district, which is obviously a more profitable use of the land. Other species such as oak or birch which have found their way in are often left standing. Perhaps the coppicing helped valuable oak to grow straight to produce fine timber which could only be cut after a much longer time, maybe 100 years or more. This is a medieval industry/technology and threatened by the onslaught of plastic products or factory-produced items nowadays. Many of the woodlands are neglected – labour is too expensive and there is a less avid market for these timber products. However, it is these same woods which are filled with the famous and devastatingly beautiful wild English bluebells each spring, and there are living in the woods many shy creatures – boar, deer, badgers, etc. The sweet chestnut woodlands did in the old days provide whole families with a livelihood...cutting the timber, de-barking it if necessary other preparatory work, and collecting and selling the nuts in the autumn. Here in Kent I knew of one such family still working the woodlands, about 5 years ago.

   Dec 13 2011 12:00AM

My name is Chris English, and I'm representing Revive the Roots, out of Smithfield RI. We are receiving six American Chestnuts in spring which are supposed to have a high probability of blight resistance. We are collaborating with an effort to plant a Forest Garden at Roger Williams Park, and I was hoping to gather more info on this species like rooting structure, essential nutrients, and wild companions. I am hoping to come up with a strong guild design of species that would be synergetic when planted with the American Chestnut. The idea is to have a canopy of American chestnut, with an understory of Paw Paw, Black locust, and Sassafras. I'm looking for leads to the design of a shrub and herbaceous layer. Any advice would be appreciated.

   Mar 6 2013 12:00AM

Hi Chris. My name is Leanne Ferree, im with the Susquehanna Permaculture guild in South Central PA. I am currently working on a private market food forest. I am using only understory and down. The primary tree is a Castanea pumila, a small shrubby tree, which is said to inherently have some resistance to blight. I am also researching plant guilds for Castanea too, and i am having a very hard time finding anything. We must be pioneers in the subject. I can tell you though that I plan to also use Corylus cornuta, a few Sambucus, ramps, Matteuccia, kiwi, grapes, saffron, rhubarb and asparagus, as well as some nectary flowers. I hope that helps you. Let me know if there is anything further i can do, and if you find any leads on a guild.

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