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Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. FAGACEAE - BEECH FAMILY

Castanea dentata - American Chestnut showing trunk, bark and  Morton Arboretum accession tag

The photographs on this page show an American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) that is in the Morton Arboretum and is labeled with the following accession information 484-47*1 sd FF89\area. It is in the Edgewood Forestry Plots. If you want to visit this tree, try parking at P15 and venturing into the woods. The online collection catalog for Morton Arboretum indicates a total of 5 trees, but I have only found this one. There is a listing for a second American Chestnut tree in the same area, but I wasn't aware of that at the time of my visit. I have repeatedly looked for one that is listed at M-82, which is near the Buckeye parking lot, but haven't been able to locate it.

Castanea dentata - American Chestnut - habit in winter

I originally spotted this tree several years ago while driving along the Edgewood Forest Road, but that is now a service road which veers to the right before it reaches the chestnut tree. The tree is now off the beaten path and I had a bit of trouble finding it, but I remember that there was a birch nearby and kept that in mind as I searched.

Castanea dentata - American Chestnut - leaves and bur onground in winter

It was early February and there were still a lot of leaves and unopened burs on the ground surrounding the tree. Don't be fooled by the oak leaves that are also present. they are nearly the same color as the chestnut leaves at this time of the year, but their shape is uniquely different.

Castanea dentata - American Chestnut - closeup of bur on ground in winter

Fruit: nuts that are encased in a 2 - 2.5 inch bur that is covered with very sharp spines. There may be 2 - 3 nuts in each bur and they mature in August or September.

Castanea dentata - American Chestnut - leaf on ground in winter - inset phot of summer leavessummer leaves

Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, 5 to 8 inches long. American Chestnut leaves are long with well defined serrations that have a bristle tip. Both sides are hairless. The dried American Chestnut leaf was photographed in February, the inserted image is a photo of leaves on the tree in early September.

At one time, the American Chestnut was one of the most important trees of the forests of the Eastern United States. It was important for its wood and for the tasty chestnuts that were prized by man and animals alike. But, in the first half of the 20th Century, the majority of trees were wiped out by the chestnut blight. Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. is listed as "Endangered" by the states of Kentucky and Michigan and is listed as being of  "Special Concern" in Maine and Tennessee.

For more information about the history of this tree and the ongoing efforts to restore its prominence visit the website of the American Chestnut Foundation -

    Kingdom: Plantae Plants
       Subkingdom: Tracheobionta Vascular plants
          Superdivision: Spermatophyta Seed plants
             Division: Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
                Class: Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
                   Subclass: Hamamelidae
                      Order: Fagales
                         Family: Fagaceae Beech family
                            Genus: Castanea P. Mill. chestnut
                               Species: Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. American chestnut

Source for classification listing: USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Karren J. Wcisel copyright 1999 - 2004  Home Page