Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa

Main features

  • Can reach up to 35m tall

  • Oval-shaped crown when mature

  • Deeply fissured red-grey bark

  • Bark twists with age

  • Glossy oval leaves with a widely toothed edge

  • Prominent pairs of veins on underside of leaf

  • Seed cases are very spiky

  • Flower in the form of catkins 

  • Seeds are ripe in late Autumn

  • Fruits split four ways when ripe

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Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa 

 

Edible tree - novice

Other common names: Chestnut. European Chestnut, Spanish Chestnut

Scientific name meaning: The Greek town of Castonis is the origin of the genus name of Chestnut trees. Sativa comes from the Latin Sativus, meaning that which is sown

Season - all year

Habitat - where will I find it? Found in woodland, parkland and in gardens. It is not native to Britain but has been here since Roman times

Description - what does it look like? Sweet Chestnut can reach 35m and forms an oval-shaped crown when mature.

Its bark is red-grey with deep fissures. These resemble a cross-hatch pattern, and as the tree ages the bark appears to twist around the tree.

The simple leaves are glossy and have a general long, thin oval shape (ovate to lanceolate). The leaf edge has widely-spaced teeth.

On the reverse of the leaf a prominent pairs of veins.

In Summer, the flowers appear as catkins. These are followed by nuts contained within very spiky cases in Autumn

Possible lookalikes Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is often confused with Sweet Chestnut. However, the leaves are palmately divided and the seed cases are much less spiky. Horse Chestnut seeds are toxic without thorough processing

Use as a food The nuts are the only part that is eaten and they should be cooked. They ripen in late Autumn.

They can be roasted or boiled, and have a sweet flavour. They can also be dried and ground into a flour

Use in herbal medicine Sweet Chestnut has been used to treat rheumatism, back pain, and diarrhoea. It has also been used to clear phlegm
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Hazards Must be cooked

Other uses Popular as a fencing material, Sweet Chestnut is useful for other forms of carpentry as it is hard and light. Shampoos have been made from the leaves and nut shells, while tannins has been obtained from the bark

Importance to other species The flowers provide a food source for several pollinators, and Red Squirrels feed on the seeds. The leaves and seeds also provide food for several species of moth larvae.

Some fungi form mycorrhizal relationships with Sweet Chestnut. When it dies, it is home to saprobic fungi such as Beefsteak Fungus

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!