Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa

Scientific Name: Castanea sativa.

English Name: Sweet Chestnut or Spanish Chestnut.

French Name: Chataignier.

5 Key Characters:
  • a large spreading deciduous tree (although can be coppiced).
  • thick furrowed trunk.
  • large lanceolate toothed leaves (10 - 25 cm long).
  • conspicuous erect yellow catkins.
  • 1-3 shiny brown nuts enclosed in a densely spiky outer casing, initially green but turning brown.
Lookalikes: Horse Chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, which has palmate leaves with spatulate leaflets, pyramidal clusters of white bell shaped flowers.

Habitat: Native to mountainous areas of Hungary and Italy, but widely introduced in France.

Flowering Period: May-June-July. Nuts in October.

Status: Introduced.The nuts are edible, although were never as important a source of food here in the lowlands as they were in the mountaneous areas where cereals do not thrive. The nuts are/were eaten by both people and livestock.The wood is/was used for stakes, barrels, furniture, poles, fencing and firewood. Our annual firewood delivery usually includes some Sweet Chestnut.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
Unripe nuts on the tree in their spiky green outer casing. Note the jagged edged toothy leaves, near Yzeures sur Creuse, October.

Ripe nuts still in their outer casing, which has turned brown and split open, near Yzeures sur Creuse, October.

Once the nuts are ripe they fall to the ground, near Yzeures sur Creuse, October.
The nuts, known as marrons in French, are widely gathered and their spiky outer casing removed. They can then be prepared in a variety of ways for eating (the tough brown skin also has to be removed).

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