Sweet Chestnut Tree Information
Latin name: Castanea sativa
Native words: none
Ogham sign: n/a
Height when mature: 30m
Height after 10 years:
Sweet Chestnut botanical description:
Sweet Chestnut is a very distinctive tree, hard to mistake! Its leaves are large like a spear blade with saw tooth edges. The outer twigs are angular and five sided with noticeable breathing pores. Not flowering until July, the male and female catkins grow together. The famous fruit develop inside a four lobed case covered with bristles which fall, split open and reveal three nuts. These nuts are oval and usually bear a tiny tuft at the point which is a remnant of the flowers stigma. Mature chestnuts have very unusual bark. On young trees it is smooth and brown but rapidly becomes deeply fissured and spiral round the main trunk. Sweet Chestnuts often become giants with a vast girth; one is on record at 50 ft in circumference at Tortworth near Bristol.
Sweet Chestnut natural history and ancient wisdom:
Introduced by the Romans from southern Europe, Sweet Chestnut is now mainly found in parks or near grand houses where it was planted for its stately aspect. In medieval times it was valued for its nuts, and plantations were established. There was a chestnut wood in the Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire) in 1170. In 1769 a survey of Kent revealed ancient coppiced and pollarded chestnuts. The poles which grow after coppicing are used in chestnut paling fences which are still commonly used. Their high price means chestnut coppices provide a good return. In 1956 there was 50 00 acres of chestnut coppice in Kent, surrey Sussex and Hampshire. Longer poles are used to support frames up which hops are grown in Kent It is the seeds of the Sweet Chestnut that are roasted and famously sold on street corners. Birds and many mammals like them too, but in Britain most of the ones we eat are imported as British trees often do not produce good enough seeds.
Sweet Chestnut place names:
Although not native it was introduced before the English gave their own place names and there are several place names associated with Sweet chestnut trees in England. Chesteyns (Essex).
Sweet Chestnut wildlife rating:
The seeds are liked by Jays and mice.
Good points/ bad points to Sweet Chestnut trees:
A magnificent and noble tree for a very large garden, to line long driveway or a wide avenue. When mature drops large numbers of seed pods which cover the ground.