Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

American Chestnut

American Chestnut

Castanea dentata

Full sun to light shade; medium to moderately dry moisture level; prefers fertile loam soil but will grow in fine silty clays, sandy clays and heavy clay; moderately acid to slightly acid pH.

70-100 feet height by 30-50 feet spread; yellow flowers, with 4-8 inch long, slender male catkins in June; sweet, edible nuts encased in a spiny, bur-like husk in fall.

Growth Rate: Fast

Maintenance:   High maintenance. Weak-wooded and branches easily damaged by ice and wind. Chestnut blight has all but eliminated the species from its former range.

Propagation: Seed is hard to find and moderately difficult to germinate.

Native Region: Statewide

A long-lived tree reaching 200 years or more. Chestnut flowers are one of the more ornamental in the beech family. This tree was queen of the eastern American forests until a blight caused its near extinction. Cryphonectric parasitica was accidentally imported on Asian chestnuts and has spread like wildfire to native trees which have no resistance. Fungus attacks and kills tree before it is old enough to reproduce, which generally eliminates the possibility of natural selection being able to produce disease-resistant trees. Loss of this majestic tree has been catastrophic to the eastern forests where it was not only important to a wide range of animals and insects but also a very important species in the natural succession of woodlands. As a result, Tennessee has designated this tree a “Special Concern” species. Plant breeders are making progress in producing disease-resistant hybrids that are nearly 98% resistant to the fungus.

Nuts provide food for mammals and many species of ground-feeding birds. Larval host for about 125 species of butterflies and moths.


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