Hainault Forest Website

Tree identification

Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa

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Twig Sweet chestnut, buds alternate

Large simple pinnate leaf. 30cms. in length. Bole. The bark is deeply fissured and the ridges are oblique, spiralling around the bole. Some mature trees in Hainault Lodge.
Long male catkins of Sweet chestnut, as long as the leaves. Female flowers develop at the base of the stiff male catkins. The tree is insect pollinated, unlike its close relatives the oaks and beeches which are wind pollinated and the catkins pendulous. A small group of female flowers. A short male catkin is above.
Detail of part of male catkin. Each flower has between 10-20 stamens. Photo: 10 July 2005. Female flower detail showing many styles.. Photo: 13th July 2005
Developing fruit cases of Sweet or Spanish chestnut. An old male spike is still attached at top of the picture. The spiky cupule contains one or two edible chestnuts. Fallen ripened cupule showing ripe Spanish chestnuts. These are edible raw or cooked.

SWEET CHESTNUT Castanea sativa

Sweet or Spanish Chestnut is an introduced tree, now naturalised in SE England, where it is often coppiced and used for fencing materials. There is one large tree in Hainault Lodge Reserve, and a few mature trees on Cabin Plain and the Golf course. Occasionally they produce chestnuts which are of a suitable size for eating raw or cooked. Although similar in appearance they are not related to the Horse Chestnut and its Conker which is not edible. The leaf is simple pinnate with a deeply serrated edge, compared to the Horse Chestnut leaf which is compound palmate with 5-7 leaflets. The bark is deeply fissured and in an older tree the ridges appear to spiral around the trunk.