Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa
CASTANEA SATIVA- Sweet Chestnut
Sweet Chestnut is a tree of the largest size growing to 30m (100ft) and more with an enormous girth and characteristic deeply furrowed spiralling bark. The leaves are large, oblong and pointed with coarse teeth along the edges.
Catkins hold the flowers of both sexes, with the males in the upper part and female flowers in the lower. These 10-20 cm long catkins appear in late June to July, and by autumn the female flowers develop into spiny protective cases called cupules. This prickly outer layer is designed to deter squirrels and other seed predators from getting to the large brown nuts within that are shed in October.
The nuts are an important commercial crop in southern Europe they are used by confectioners, eaten roasted and ground to make flour. There's even a Corsican beer made with chestnuts. However nut quality and quantity are variable in the English climate.
The wood of the tree is durable and is used to make furniture, barrels, fencing and roof beams. As it has a tendency to split and warp it is not usually used in large pieces where structural strength is important. It is often used in a coppice rotation to produce durable fencing posts.
Where to grow
Originally native to south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor, it is thought to have been introduced to these islands by the Romans though it may have arrived earlier. It is now naturalised in the south.
Did you know?
Sweet chestnuts were a favourite tree of the 17th and 18th centuries and many were planted in parkland. Locally the Tortworth Chestnut in Gloucestershire was reputed to be six hundred years old in 1800.
On a plaque beside it is the following verse.
May Man still Guard thy Venerable Form,
From the Rude Blasts and Tempestuous Storm.
Still mayest thou Flourish through Succeeding time
And Last, Long Last, the Wonder of the Clime.
- Mature height
- Very Large - 20 metres+
- 20+ meters
- Growth rate
- Soil type
- All soil types
- Difficulty/hard to grow
- Season of interest
- Autumn colour
- Large Leaves
- Flower colour
- Flowering month
- Scented Flowers
- Parkland Tree
- City/Urban Sites
- Good Firewood
- Timber producing
- Bee Friendly
Pruning Castanea sativa
To train sweet chestnut as a standard, gradually removing low lateral branches as the crown develops. Remove any badly positioned stems to create a strong frame and the tree will then require no maintenance.
Sweet chestnut can also be coppiced to produce a multi-stemmed tree by cutting stems down to just above the ground (approx. half a foot or 15cm). This is best carried out for the first time on young trees in good growing conditions.
When should I prune? Prune when not in leaf (late autumn and winter). Minor pruning may be done in late summer.
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass. The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:
- Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup. Apply each year for the first 3 years. It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
- Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.
Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.