Edible Sweet Chestnut tree - Castanea Sativa

The Sweet Chestnut is the tree that edible Chestnuts come from. The species name is "Castanea Sativa" and it is a tree that is native to Southern Europe. This tree should not be confused with the Common Horse Chestnut which has a similar shaped "fruit" that is NOT edible. The images in this blog post were taken at a very large Sweet Chestnut tree in Southern Spain that is called the "Castaño Santo de Istan". In the fourth image down in this post there is a picture of my son in the tree that gives an idea of its size.

The leaves of the Sweet Chestnut are elliptical with serrate margins and pinnate venation. They measure about 5-7 inches long and about 2-3 inches wide. The edible part of the chestnut is enclosed in a "porky pine like" casing that splits open when mature revealing the nut inside.

The tree above is the largest Sweet Chestnut that I have seen. It´s trunk is 46 feet in circumference at the base. It is estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 years old.

The bark of the Castinea sative can be quite different depending on the maturity of the branch or trunk. The image above contrasts the very young bark and very mature bark.

Every winter in Spain, usually around Christmas, it is common to come across street vendors, like the one below, that roast fresh Chestnuts and sell them. The Chestnuts are roasted barbecue style in a drum over hot coals. The sweet, nutty smell of the roasting Chestnuts fills the cool air and is almost irresistible to the passerby.


  1. Hello .. I love your blog!

    We also have the street vendors selling chestnuts at Christmas time in London, and I remember my parents roasting chestnuts on the fire when I was a child

    What a beautiful old tree! Great post :-)

  2. Yes, we have these vendors in Malaysia too! But in the Middle East, chestnuts are generally roasted in the oven. So we might as well do it ourselves!

  3. Wow! The picture of your son sitting up in the European chestnut (Castanea sativa) certainly got me excited.

    I've been reading information about the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) to have a better understanding with how I may, as a Virginia Master Naturalist, help to support efforts to repopulate our native woodlands with our native American chestnut.

    It was a national tragedy when our forests were infected with the chestnut blight brought in with the importation of the Chinese chestnut(Castanea mollissima) in the early 1900's. Only a small population the billions of American chestnut trees towering throughout the eastern woodlands of America escaped being infected by this blight.

    You may be interested in reading about local efforts in my blog report http://marveloustrees.blogspot.com/2009/07/for-there-is-hope-for-tree-if-it-is-cut.html.

    The American Chestnut Foundation (www.acf.org) is searching for volunteers to plant blight resistant seedlings and chestnuts, and provides photographs and overviews of the five various chestnut species.

  4. I love chestnuts so much. i like them with alot of salt.

  5. from what i have discovered sweet chestnuts are banned on the streets of cheltenham due to a health and safty issues the the council have introduced?i am confused and need to get to the bottom of it..Adam http://www.thesculpturestudios.co.uk

  6. I love chestnuts!!!! yay! Marina Cardoso