Q. There is a large chestnut tree growing on our property. Could it be an American chestnut?
The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) is highly susceptible to a fungal disease (Cryphonectria parasitica) and has been essentially wiped out. Only isolated locations still have small stands. American chestnut is not extinct; it will take several hundred to a thousand years for the tree to potentially become extinct.
Nonetheless, it is fairly common to find shoots of American chestnut growing out of the roots of dead trees. Unfortunately, they rarely grow long enough to form seeds before being overcome by the fungus. The European sweet chestnut (C. sativa) is also susceptible to the fungus, but less so. The Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) is relatively resistant to the fungus. Chinese chestnut has been widely planted in the United States as an ornamental tree, so this is probably the tree that you have on your property.
The American Chestnut Foundation website carries a lot of information about chestnuts, for example:
- "There are very few tree-sized chestnuts. Most sprouts are less than eight inches dbh (diameter at breast height). Because of this, you sometimes will see statements such as, ‘American chestnut is extinct as a large forest tree.’ That statement is restricted to large forest trees, and even that is not strictly correct.”
- “What one can term the chestnut is that they are ‘effectively extinct’.”
- “The American chestnut tree is threatened with extinction from blight because very few trees are producing nuts.”
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service