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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the American Chestnut in Canada

COSEWIC Status Report
on the
American Chestnut
Castanea dentata
in Canada

Species Information

Name and Classification

Scientific name:
Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.
Common name:
American chestnut, chestnut, or sweet chestnut
Family name:
Fagaceae (beech family)
Major plant group:
Dicot flowering plant

In addition to American chestnut, other species of Castanea occur in the southern US and other chestnuts are native to Europe and Asia. For more details on the taxonomy of this species see Ambrose and Aboud (1986).


It is a large tree of the forest canopy reaching as much as 30 m in height; it has smooth, thin, dark grey-brown bark breaking into shallow fissures with age. Leaves are alternate, simple, 15-30 cm long and 5-10 cm wide, with a long tapered tip and base and widely spaced sharp teeth along the margins. Both leaf surfaces are smooth (lacking hairs) and green. Buds are short and ovoid (not elongate as in American beech). Male flowers occur on long catkins, female flowers are found individually or in small clusters at the base of some catkins, forming prickly burs at maturity containing 1-5 nuts. It hybridizes and can be confused with Chinese and other species of chestnut. The species is illustrated in Gleason (1963) and Waldron (2003); some other illustrations, such as in Farrar (1995) are confusing or inaccurate.