Castanea sativa, commonly called Spanish chestnut or sweet chestnut or European chestnut, is a large, pyramidal-rounded to broad-columnar deciduous tree in the beech family that typically matures to 80-100’ tall with a substantial trunk growing to as much as 7’ in diameter. It is native to high forest areas of western Asia. Edible chestnuts have been cultivated from this tree for human consumption since ancient times. Today this species is grown throughout much of Europe, northern Africa and southwestern Asia. Growth is widespread in Great Britain where this tree was first introduced during the Roman occupation. The vast majority of chestnuts consumed as food in the U.S. today are imported from Spanish chestnut cultivars/hybrids commercially grown in Europe (most from Italy). Spanish chestnut features coarsely-toothed, oblong-lanceolate, dark green leaves (to 6-10” long), each leaf having about 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins. Leaves are slightly furry with a lighter green color beneath. Leaves turn yellow in fall. Tiny, densely-clustered, monoecious flowers bloom in yellowish-green catkins (each to 4-8” long) in early to mid-summer. Flowers in the mid to upper portions of bisexual catkins are males, with a much smaller number of female flowers appearing at the base of such catkins. Pollinated female flowers are followed by prickly husks, each containing 3-7 brownish nuts which fall from the tree in October. Although C. sativa has separate male and female flowers on the same tree, these flowers are largely self-incompatible, thus more than one tree is normally planted in order to produce nuts (assuming nut production is a goal). Purplish-gray bark develops fissures with age. Grow in moist, well-drained loams in full sun. Performs well in sandy soils. Established trees have drought resistance. Large nut-producing tree. Excellent tree for parks and large gardens. Hardy in zones 3-7.
The Sweet Chestnut is not sold or shipped to Washington State.
Growing Instructions for the Sweet Chestnut
The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. 1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 2. Put the seeds in a ziplock bag. 3. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 2-3 months. 4. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. 5. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep. 6. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. The seeds germinate in take 30-40 days. 7. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.