Carolinian
   and Deciduous Forest Trees
of Southern Ontario

Chestnut
Castanea Dentata 

Location in Ontario:
American Chestnut is a Carolinian Tree that grows in limited areas throughout the Carolinian Zone.

COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) Status: American Chestnut has been identified as an endangered species in Canada due to Chestnut Blight.


Beautiful open grown Chestnut tree in flower, St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre, Norfolk County 

Genus Castanea: Leaves are simple and alternate, long and narrow with sharp, widely spaced teeth. Trees are monoecious with male (pollen) flowers and female (seed) flowers on the same tree. Nuts are edible, and produced in burr-like husks. The only species of Castanea in Ontario is American Chestnut.

Habitat: Chestnut grows on acidic sandy or gravelly soils, that are moist but well drained.Landscape Use: Sadly, it is risky to plant Chestnut, as nearly all Chestnuts eventually succumb to Chestnut Blight. In its day, Chestnut was a large tree. It has sprays of white flowers in the spring, and picturesque seed husks in the fall.  

Chestnut trees once accounted for 25% of forest trees in North America. Chestnut blight was accidently brought from Asia in 1904. In thirty years, 99% of the Chestnut trees were killed, greatly altering the ecosystems in which they grew. Today, only a very few large trees survive. Many healthy Chestnuts were cut down in hopes of preventing the spread of the disease. This eliminated any trees that may have had natural immunity and contributed to the demise of the Chestnut.


The tree at St. Williams (shown) succumbing to Chestnut Blight two years later.


For more information, go to:
Canadian Chestnut Council

Recommended Book:
Freinkel, S. (2007). American chestnut: The life, death, and rebirth of a perfect tree. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Leaves: Chestnut leaves are simple with large sharp teeth (15-20 per side). They are long (15 to 28 cm) and narrow, coming to a sharp point.


Leaves and male flowers

FALL COLOUR WATCH: yellow

Size: Sadly, this tree grows only to about 10 metres before dying from chestnut blight. In the past, it grew up to a beautiful large tree of 35 metres.

Bark: Although rare, the bark of large trees is smooth and dark brown, with flat topped ridges. For younger trees, the bark is smooth and dark brown.

 Flowers: American Chestnut is monoecious with male (pollen) flowers and female (seed) flowers on the same tree. The flowers are creamy-white. Male flowers are in long catkins, and female flowers are single. Flowers appear in early July.

TREE FACT: There were once so many Chestnut trees that forests appeared snow-covered when the Chestnuts were in flower. 

Fruit: One to three flat edible nuts are contained in a spiny, burr-like husk. Husks appear in summer and mature in October.


Dried husk

Opened husk.

TREE FACT: These chestnuts are edible, but are not the chestnuts found in stores which are from "Sweet Chestnut" trees, a similar tree from Europe. 

Wood: The wood is light and soft, but resistant to decay. American Chestnut was once prized for furniture and flooring, but due to the small size of the remaining trees, it has no commercial use today. 
Specific gravity: 0.43
Janka Hardness: 540 lb
Wood Comparison Chart


Chestnut loaded with nuts, St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre, Norfolk County

~~~~~