Support Marquand Park

Prefer Check?

Marquand Park Foundation, P.O. Box 415

Lover's Lane, Princeton NJ 08542

Common Name

Chinese chestnut

Scientific Name

Castanea mollissima Blume. (Fabaceae,  Fagales)

Inventory Numbers: 463 465

The Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) is a small- to medium-sized tree with broad crown. The oval-shaped leaves are simple, alternate, and with straight veins and slightly toothed. The top of the leaf is somewhatleathery and underneathpaler green and hairy. The flowers appear as catkins with female flowers at the base and male flowers elsewhere. The fruit is a brown nut (2.5 in) housed in a spiny coat. They are edible and an important food source for forest animals. The tree is resistant to the chestnut blightthat has wiped out almost all the American chestnuts. Native to China, the Chinese chestnut is now the most common chestnut in North America. Compared to American chestnut, Chinese chestnut has smaller, wider, and leathery leaves and smaller fruit.Most of the Castanea species arose from southern Europe, SW and E Asia and Eastern North America. In 1904 a blight, Cryphonectria parasitica, (formerly called Endothia parasitica) was introduced along the East Coast of North America and spread to destroy American chestnut trees, C. dentata, ( as the Dutch Elm disease did to the American elms). The chestnut fungus attacks larger trees so American chestnuts grow to the size of a shrub before the stems are killed. But since the roots survive, the stems regrow until they are hit again. C. mollissima is not immune to chestnut blight but is resistant. In Europe the common chestnut is the sweet, Spanish or European Chestnut, C sativa. The Romans valued this tree as a source of food and introduced it to many parts of their Empire including Britain. It is also sensitive to the chestnut blight. Like all Fagales many leaves are retained during the winter. The Latin name for acorn is ‘glans’ which is morphologicall similar to the tip of the mammalian penis, also called a ‘glans’.The genus name is derived from the town of Castania in Thessaly where the trees reportedly grew in abundance. Mollissima come from the Latin root for “soft”, in reference to the pubescent twigs and leaf undersides.

Link describing difference between an American and Chinese chestnut.

Specimen Provenance:

Common name: Chinese Chestnut

Species Origin: Korea and China from Beijing to Yunnan.

New Jersey Status: USDA Introduced

Habit: Medium sized, low-branched typically 40’ tall. Rounded in shape as young tree but broader at maturity with low branches.

Habitat: Zone 4 -8

Trunk/Stem: Bark gray brown, strongly ridged and furrowed.

Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Elliptic oblong to oblong-lanceolate; apex acuminate; base cuneate; leaf margin coarsely toothed; adaxial surface lustrous, dark green; abaxial surface lighter green and pubescent. Each leaf margin tooth is linked to a vein running to the midrib. Leaves turn various shade of yellow in fall.

Flowers: Monoecious; pale yellow or creamy of heavy unpleasant odor. Staminate in erect cylindrical catkins; pistillate (female) flowers found on the bottom part of the catkin, staminate (male) flowers found on the upper part of the catkin. Bloom time June.

Fruits and seeds: 2 – 3 nuts (seeds) enclosed in a prickly involucre (the fruit) which splits at maturity into 2 – 4 valves. Nuts edible.