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Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima)

Chinese Chestnut Tree A native of China and Korea, the Chinese Chestnut has been planted extensively in the US as an ornamental. It is resistant, but not immune, to the chestnut blight which virtually eliminated the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) from the Eastern Deciduous Forest of North America. Chinese Chestnut cultivars are being crossed with American Chestnuts in a breeding program to develop a hybrid resistant to the chestnut blight.

Chinese Chestnut Burs Chinese Chestnut Nuts At this time of year, the ground below two Chinese Chestnut trees upslope from the Arboretum Visitors Center is littered with large spiny chestnut fruits (burs), up to 3 in. long and over one inch in diameter, containing one to three shiny brown nuts. These edible nuts are flattened on one or two sides and very attractive to squirrels and other wildlife. Once they have fallen, they can pose a significant litter problem.

Chinese Chestnut Flowers Chinese Chestnut is monoecious, bearing male and female flowers on long (4-5 in.), fragrant, yellowish-white catkins in June. As with other members of the genus Castanea, the male flowers make up the upper portion of the catkins, while a small number (1-3) of inconspicuous female flowers occur at the base. The undersides of the glossy toothed leaves (5-8 in. long) and the twigs are densely pubescent.

Chinese Chestnut can be distinguished from the native American Chestnut by the dense pubescence on its twigs and the undersides of its leaves (American Chestnut leaves and twigs are essentially glabrous) and the number of nuts in each bur - 2 to 3 versus 1 (rarely 2). In addition, the spiny bracts surrounding the nuts are larger for the Chinese Chestnut.


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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu