Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Castanea dentata


American chestnut


Fagaceae (Beech Family)



Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Cressler, Alan
Formerly a large tree with a massive trunk and a broad, rounded, dense crown; now small sprouts from base of long-dead trees.

American Chestnut is gone from the forests, a victim of the chestnut blight caused by an introduced fungus. This disease began in New York City in 1904, spread rapidly, and within 40 years had virtually wiped out this once abundant species. Fortunately, there is no threat of extinction; sprouts continue from roots until killed back by the blight, and cultivated trees grow in western states and other areas where the parasite is absent. Blight-resistant chestnuts such as hybrids between American and Chinese species are being developed for ornament, shade, and wildlife. The wood of this species was once the main domestic source of tannin, the edible chestnuts were a commercial crop, and the leaves were used in home medicines.

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4 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf: Yellow-Green
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul

Distribution

USA: AL , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: Extreme s. Ontario east to Maine, south to sw. Georgia, west to Mississippi, north to Indiana; to 4000 (1219 m).
Native Habitat: Moist upland soils in mixed forests.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None

Benefit

Use Wildlife: Provides larval food for around 125 species of butterflies and moths.
Use Food: Once the most important edible nut of eastern indigenous people.
Use Medicinal: This is Canadas only native chestnut. Settlers boiled the leaves to make a jelly for treating burns and sweaty feet. A tea of the bark was gargled to soothe inflamed tonsils, and it was swallowed (with honey) to cure whooping cough. (Kershaw)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Larval Host: For circa 125 species of Lepidoptera.

Last Update: 2014-07-18