Sweet chestnut trees are a deciduous broadleaf tree native to southern Europe, western Asia and north Africa.
Scientific name: Castanea sativa Family: Fagaceae
UK provenance: non-native
The Romans ground sweet chestnuts into a flour or coarse meal.
Mature sweet chestnut trees grow to 35m and can live for up to 700 years. The bark is grey-purple and smooth, which develops vertical fissures with age. The twigs are purple-brown and buds are plum, red-brown and oval in shape.
Leaves: oblong and toothed with a pointed tip, and feature around 20 pairs of prominent parallel veins.
Flowers: long, yellow catkins of mostly male flowers, with female flowers at the base. Sweet chestnut is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same tree.
Fruits: after pollination by insects, female flowers develop into shiny red-brown fruits wrapped in a green, spiky case. Sweet chestnut trees begin to bear fruit when they are about 25 years old. Harvest the nuts in October when the nuts are ripe as their outer skin (burrs) burst, others may need to be opened by hand.
Sweet chestnut trees should be planted in late autumn-early spring. For best growth, plant in full sun, in a well drained fertile, deep soil. Plant in a hole big enough to accommodate the depth and size of the roots, and water in well. Remove any vegetation around the base of the tree to help keep in moisture and discourage weeds. Trees should be spaced approximately 7m x 7m apart.