Chinese Chestnut

Chinese Chestnut

Castanea mollissima Blume

Description

Chinese chestnut is a member of the beech Family (Fagaceae).  It develops into a moderate sized three reaching 40 feet in height and width¹.  It has leaves reaching 4 to 8 inches in length and 2 to 4 inches in width with coarsely serrate margins.  The underside of the leaf has soft hairs.  Male and female flowers are found on the same tree (monoecious) with the male flowers long catkins and the female flowers less conspicuous².    The fruits form a large, spiny bur containing up to three brown nuts².

Chinese Chestnut Catkins - Male Flowers (Halifax County, NC)

Male flowers of Chinese chestnut. @ C. Dewitt, North Carolina State Extension³

nut, Warren County, NC

Chinese chestnut leaves and fruiting bur.  @ C. Dewitt, North Carolina State Extension³

Castanea mollissima

Nut of Chinese chestnut.  @ G. Stansbury, North Carolina State Extension³

Distribution

Chinese chestnut is native to China.  In North America it has a wide potential growth range based upon its potential growth in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.  In practice it is found from Massachuests  to Alabama and west to Illinois 4.

Wildlife Importance

Squirrels, deer, turkeys and other animals may consume the seeds.

Economic Importance

The nuts are edible with a high starch content of 30 to 50%, oil content of 5%, and a protein content of 5%².  Although not as sweet or flavorful as American chestnut, they are widely used.  A tree may produce 35 to 55 pounds of nuts per year².  Because of its tolerance to pollution it is used as a specimen tree in urban areas¹.  The wood has little value.

Threats

Chinese chestnut is resistant to the blight that eradicated the American chestnut².  They may become infected, but are not as affected as are American or European chestnuts.

Interesting Facts

  • Some people find the odor of the flowers offensive³.
  • The nuts are edible with a high starch content of 30 to 50%, oil content of 5%, and a protein content of 5%².

References

  1. US Forest Service Fact Sheet: Chinese chestnut
  2. Castanea mollissima: A Chinese Chestnut for the Northeast
  3. North Carolina State Extension:  Castanea mollissima 
  4. USDA: Castanea mollissima 

Contributed by J. Hull

Towson Un diversity Glen Arboretum

Towson University

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