Sweet Chestnut – Castanea sativa

Tree of the Week

2nd September 2019 | Info

Common Name: Sweet Chestnut

Scientific name: Castanea sativa

Introduction: The Sweet Chestnut is a large deciduous tree that can grow up to 35m tall and has a lifespan of 700+ years.

Identification

Leaves: Oblong shaped leaves which are toothed and have a pointed tip. The leaves feature around 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins.

Buds: Ovoid, red-brown, few scaled.

Bark: Grey-Purple. The bark is smooth at first and develops vertical fissures with age.

Form: Sweet Chestnut trees form large-rounded canopies and reach heights of up to 35m.

 

Reproduction:

Long, yellow catkins of mostly male flowers, with female flowers at the base. Sweet Chestnuts are monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. After insects have pollinated the tree, the female flowers develop into shiny red-brown fruits that are wrapped in a spiky green casing. Sweet Chestnuts only begin to bear fruit after they reach the 25-year mark.

Growth Habit:

A vigorous growing tree in height and girth. The tree continues to grow rapidly in trunk girth until it reaches 8-9m in circumference.

Interesting Facts:

The Sweet Chestnut tree is native to Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. The Romans are thought to have introduced the Sweet Chestnut to the UK and would grind sweet chestnuts into flour or coarse meal. The Ancient Greeks also dedicated the Sweet Chestnut to the Greek God, Zeus.

Ecological Importance:

The flowers provide a valuable source of nectar and pollen to bees and other insects, and squirrels eat their nuts. A variety of micro-moths tend to feed on the leaves and nuts too.

Properties of Sweet Chestnut Wood and its Uses:

Sweet Chestnut has a timber similar to Oak; however, it is more lightweight and can be worked much easier. The grain is straight in young trees, but as the tree ages, this becomes more spirally. Additionally, the timber is commonly used for carpentry, joinery and furniture and its chestnuts can be used within cooking and are particularly favoured after roasting.

Associated Pests and Diseases:

Sweet chestnut is susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases including the Chestnut blight. The Chestnut blight has recently arrived in the UK, and this causes bark cankers, dieback and even death. Saplings can also suffer from squirrel damage and leaf mines.

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