Sweet chestnut can grow into a large tree with a deeply grooved bark. The fissures of the bark of a mature tree are often spiralling up around the tree. 

Chestnut bark

 It is monoecious: having separate male and female flowers. The male catkins are long and yellow and have a rather sickly odour. Trees flower relatively late – May/ June/July. Female flowers are green rosettes and they grow in clusters.

 Chestnut flowers

The flowers later grow together to create the prickly, leathery casing form containing 2 - 3 edible nuts. Seedling trees may take 30 years before bearing fruit, and require a warm summer (over 27 degrees C)  to fully ripen the fruit. The seeds are usually baked or dried before eating and can be ground into a gluten free flour. They are rich in carbohydrates, but opinions vary on whether or not we can eat the chestnuts raw. There are a great number of recipes available.

Chestnut nuts

The leaves on a mature tree are dark green and can be very long, up to 20cm in length. They are simple leaves; arranged alternately along the shoot/twig, have prominent veins, a pointed tip with serrated edges.

Chestnut leaves

 Sweet chestnut is most often grown as a coppice plant, and therefore cut on regular rotations - depending on the final use for the timber. The bark of young trees is silver/ grey in colour and smooth. 

 Sweet chestnut coppice

Further reading

Howkins, C (2003) Sweet chestnut, history, landscape, people. Chris Howkins publisher.

ISBN 1 901087 - 45

Sweet chestnut leafSweet chestnut leaf

Comments on this article

Hilary 4 November, 2013

Can you tell me if coppiced chestnut trees also bear fruit?

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