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Chestnut Identification

Leaves to be examined should be fully expanded, from parts of the tree exposed to full sun and not from within 15 cm of flowers.


Castanea dentate (American chestnut)

Before chestnut blight reached the Carolinian forests this was a tree 18-24 m (occasional 30 m) tall. Now mature trees are uncommon within the native range and usually found as a shrubby cluster of sprouts or as a slender, understory tree up to 18 m tall. The twigs are smooth, reddish to chestnut brown in colour; the buds are smooth and brown and asymmetrically bullet-shaped, usually askew on the twig. Leaves are hairless or with only a few short hairs on the mid-vein of the lower surface, oblong, pointed at the tip, and acute at the base where they join the petioles with coarsely toothed margins with a hook. Mature leaves are light green and paper-thin, and droop down from the twigs. Burs are at the end of the branch with up to 3 nuts per bur.


Castanea mollissima (Chinese chestnut)

Chinese chestnut trees range in resistance to chestnut blight from very susceptible (as susceptible as American chestnut trees) to very resistant. Many cultivars are very cold tolerant. They can usually be recognized by their more oval shape, thick leathery, coarsely serrated leaves that are densely or sparsely hairy on the lower surface. Twigs are greenish-brown to buff-yellow and downy.  Buds are hairy, tan, dull brown to black, rounded and flat against the stem. Burs contain 2-3 nuts, with nut size of 1.87 cm to 5 cm, are rounded with a hairy tip, a sunburst pattern is uncommon.


 Castanea crenata (Japanese chestnut)

Japanese chestnuts are usually very resistant to chestnut blight and ink disease, and some cultivars have been selected for their resistance to Oriental Chestnut Gall Wasp. The leaves are often dark, shiny green on top and the sides of the leaves are somewhat parallel. They have dense or sparse hairs on the lower surface with many glands. Leaf margins usually have bristle-like projections instead of deeply cut teeth. Twigs are delicate, dark reddish-brown and downy and become smooth as they mature. Buds are glossy, brown and round in shape. The nuts are medium to large (2.5 to 5 cm), 2-3 nuts per bur and the pell covering the nut inside the shell is hard to remove and often bitter when the nuts are fresh.


 Castanea sativa (European chestnut)

Trees are tall and straight like American chestnut trees. Leaves are usually straight across where they join the petiole, and have long hairs on the veins of both the lower and upper surface. They usually stand out nearly straight from the twigs. The teeth tend to be triangular, big, sharp or rounded with no hook. Twigs are thick, coarse, brown and are downy at first and become smooth with maturity. Nuts are about the size of American chestnut, 2-3 per bur.


Chestnut Identification