Sweet Chestnut
(Castanea sativa)
Simple
Linear
Alternate
Tree
Toothed
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
Broadest at tip
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
9-15 pairs of veins
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
leaves >10 cm

leaves

linear leaves

leaves

Winter twig
Winter twig

shrub

bark
Bark

fruits
Fruits

distribution map

The leaves are alternate, 10-25 cm long, with prominent saw-like teeth on the margin and about 15 pairs of parallel veins. They are hairless above, but hairy below when young. The leaf stalks are short, only 5-30 mm long.

ID check

Sweet chestnut can be a large tree up to 30 m in height, with a single trunk but is often coppiced to form a shrub of many straight poles. It is a species introduced to the UK and widely planted and extensively naturalised, especially on acid, sandy soils.

There are separate male and female flowers but they both occur on the same catkins when they appear in July. On each catkin there are a few females (without stamens) at the bottom and many males above (with 10-20 stamens).

Female flowers develop into spiny green fruits which split in autumn to release 1-3 edible 'chestnuts'.

The dark brown bark has deep vertical fissures which often spiral up the trunk.

Facts

  • Poles from coppiced woodland were formerly used in the hop gardens of Kent: they are still used for chestnut fencing.

  • Chestnut wood is similar to oak and can be turned into beams and panelling.

  • It is a native in the Mediterranean, introduced to Britain by the Romans.

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