Quick Facts

Species Type

Native

Size

When exposed to full sunlight, American chestnuts can grow up to 20-30 feet tall. 

Habitat

Wooded areas with acidic soils on dry, well-drained hillsides; flowering American chestnuts are most likely to be found in areas exposed to a lot of sun, along roadsides, at the edge of the forest, and in areas where a lot of the overstory trees have been removed

Range

The American chestnut is native to southern and eastern parts of the United States, particularly along the Appalachian Mountains. It is present in parts of West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania.

Lifespan

American chestnuts that are not blight-resistant live only about five years.

Conservation Status

Endangered

Appearance

The American chestnut has long, canoe-shaped leaves with a prominent lance-shaped tip and hooked teeth around the edges of the leaf. The leaf is dull or “matte” instead of shiny or waxy in texture. American chestnut leaves are long in comparison to their width, and the stems usually have a reddish color.

Predators

The American chestnut is threatened by two diseases, Cryphonectria parasitica (the chestnut blight) and Phytophthora cinnamomi. American chestnuts also have several nonnative insect pests:

  • Asian gall wasp, which impacts flowering and growth
  • Asiatic oak weevil, which defoliates trees and feeds on roots
  • Spongy moth (previously known as the gypsy moth), a defoliator of many broadleaf trees.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Flowering American chestnut trees will either have only male flowers or both male and female flowers. A chestnut tree rarely self-pollinates, which means that at least two chestnut trees need to be near each other for viable nut production. Depending on latitude and elevation Chestnut trees bloom from mid-June to early July.

Did You Know?

  • The American chestnut was once the tallest chestnut tree and could reach 100 feet in height.
  • Scientists have produced a genetically engineered American chestnut that is resistant to the chestnut blight, though it has not yet been introduced into the wild.
  • Spouts rarely survive to maturity and for that reason, the American chestnut is considered to be “functionally extinct” in the wild.
  • At maturity, the American chestnut produces large quantities of edible nuts that are eaten by people and wildlife alike.
  • American chestnut wood is a favored resource because it doesn’t rot.

Sources and Additional Information