Species list


Castanea sativa

Sweet chestnut

Sweet chestnut (Eng); castañero, castaño (Spa); castanyer (Cat); gaztainondoa (Baq); castañeiro (Glg); sweet chesnut, Spanish chestnut (ing.).


DID YOU KNOW...? The scent of the male sweet chestnut flowers is very similar to that of human semen.


The sweet chestnut tree is a rapidly growing tree that can be up to 30 m tall, may develop an impressively thick trunk and live a long time. Its trunk is thick, solid and sometimes hollow in older specimens. The bark is brown, dark and fissures longitudinally with age, acquiring an obliquely grooved characteristic, as if the trunk were twisted. The leaves are simple, deciduous, alternate, oblong-lanceolate, 10-25 cm long, 5-8 cm wide and serrated along the margin. The flowers appear in the spring. The abundant male blooms appear in large groups of long, upright, narrow yellow strands, 10-25 cm in length (catkins). The discrete female flowers are arranged at the base of these catkins and, after fertilisation, enclose the seeds (chestnuts) in a spiny cover known as a burr.


This species prefers spots with cool, deep, non-limey soils, that are somewhat moist, and it does not tolerate prolonged summer droughts well. In the Canary Islands, the chestnut tree grows naturally on the midslopes, or medianías (zones at altitudes of between 600 and 1500 m), and summit areas, generally in zones near the monteverde forest and, in some cases, associated with the humid pine forest.


The original range of the sweet chestnut is difficult to pinpoint precisely due to its long history as a cultivated tree. It is thought that it originated in areas of the Caucasus, Balkans and Asia Minor, and that it was first cultivated in Ancient Greece, later spreading into southern Europe. It began to be widely grown in the Canary Islands around the 16th century both for its fruit (through grafting) and wood. On El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria there are zones of wild chestnut trees that, in some cases, seem to have originated from abandoned plantations of grafted trees.