Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. FAGACEAE - BEECH FAMILY
Trade Names: AMERICAN CHESTNUT
The photographs on this page show an American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) that is in the Morton Arboretum and is labeled with the following accession information 484-47*1 sd FF89\area. It is in the Edgewood Forestry Plots. If you want to visit this tree, try parking at P15 and venturing into the woods. The online collection catalog for Morton Arboretum indicates a total of 5 trees, but I have only found this one. There is a listing for a second American Chestnut tree in the same area, but I wasn't aware of that at the time of my visit. I have repeatedly looked for one that is listed at M-82, which is near the Buckeye parking lot, but haven't been able to locate it.
I originally spotted this tree several years ago while driving along the Edgewood Forest Road, but that is now a service road which veers to the right before it reaches the chestnut tree. The tree is now off the beaten path and I had a bit of trouble finding it, but I remember that there was a birch nearby and kept that in mind as I searched.
It was early February and there were still a lot of leaves and unopened burs on the ground surrounding the tree. Don't be fooled by the oak leaves that are also present. they are nearly the same color as the chestnut leaves at this time of the year, but their shape is uniquely different.
Fruit: nuts that are encased in a 2 - 2.5 inch bur that is covered with very sharp spines. There may be 2 - 3 nuts in each bur and they mature in August or September.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately veined, 5 to 8 inches long. American Chestnut leaves are long with well defined serrations that have a bristle tip. Both sides are hairless. The dried American Chestnut leaf was photographed in February, the inserted image is a photo of leaves on the tree in early September.
At one time, the American Chestnut was one of the most important trees of the
forests of the
Eastern United States. It was important for its wood and for the tasty chestnuts
prized by man and animals alike. But, in the first half of the 20th Century, the
majority of trees
were wiped out by the chestnut blight.
Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.
is listed as "Endangered" by the states of Kentucky and Michigan and is listed
as being of "Special Concern" in Maine and Tennessee.
For more information about the history of this tree and the ongoing efforts to restore its prominence visit the website of the American Chestnut Foundation - http://www.acf.org/
Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Hamamelidae –
Order: Fagales –
Family: Fagaceae – Beech family
Genus: Castanea P. Mill. – chestnut
Species: Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. – American chestnut
Source for classification listing: USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Karren J. Wcisel © copyright 1999 - 2004
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