American Chestnut

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)

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Common Name(s): American Chestnut

Scientific Name: Castanea dentata

Distribution: Eastern United States

Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 5-7 ft (1.5-2.0 m) trunk diameter*

*Because of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this size currently exist

Average Dried Weight: 30 lbs/ft3 (480 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .40, .48

Janka Hardness: 540 lbf (2,400 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 8,600 lbf/in2 (59.3 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,230,000 lbf/in2 (8.48 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 5,320 lbf/in2 (36.7 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.4%, Tangential: 6.7%, Volumetric: 11.6%, T/R Ratio: 2.0

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a light to medium brown, darkening to a reddish brown with age. Narrow sapwood is well-defined and is pale white to light brown. Wormy Chestnut is also seen, which is chestnut that has been damaged by insects, leaving holes and other discoloration in the wood.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight to spiral or interlocked. With a coarse, uneven texture.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large, exclusively solitary earlywood pores, numerous small latewood pores in dendritic arrangement; tyloses common; growth rings distinct; rays not visible without lens; apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates (short lines between rays).

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable, though many trees killed by the chestnut blight of the early 1900s were left standing and eventually were damaged by insects.

Workability: Overall easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Chestnut splits easily, so care must be taken in nailing and screwing the wood. Due to its coarse texture, turning is mediocre. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although no adverse health effects have specifically been reported for American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), other types of Chestnut in the Castanea genus (C. sativa and C. mollissima) have been reported to cause skin irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Because of the blight wiping out nearly all mature American Chestnut trees, its lumber is both rare and (relatively) valuable. Wormy Chestnut in particular is usually salvaged from old barns and other structures, and reprocessed and sold as reclaimed lumber. Prices are likely to be high for a domestic hardwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Flooring, rustic furniture, shingles, and reclaimed lumber.

Comments:  Caused by an accidentally introduced Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), the chestnut blight of the early 1900s was responsible for killing over three billion chestnut trees. The wood in these standing trees was subsequently damaged by insects, leaving holes and discoloration. The trees were then subsequently harvested and converted into lumber (called Wormy Chestnut). Between the nail holes, discoloration, worm and insect damage, Wormy Chestnut is preferred in applications where a rustic or unpolished appearance is desired.

Related Species:

Related Articles:

None available.

Scans/Pictures:

American Chestnut (Castanea dentata)
American Chestnut (sanded)

American Chestnut (sealed)
American Chestnut (sealed)

American Chestnut (endgrain)
American Chestnut (endgrain)

American Chestnut (endgrain 10x)
American Chestnut (endgrain 10x)

Wormy Chestnut
Wormy Chestnut (sanded)

Wormy Chestnut (sealed)
Wormy Chestnut (sealed)
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WildFire

I enjoy working with American Chestnut it works and finishes easily and has a distinct appearance. Unfortunately it’s hard to come by. I just finished turning some pens from a supply I had from my 200 year old log cabin. I had fenceposts around the farm that I pulled up and used as well. My favorite was an old creek crossing timber that I removed from the muck when I installed pipe in the crossing. It was almost black from soaking up the minerals in the mud but dried out and turned very well. Amazing material and in my opinion… Read more »

Michael Parsons

Once while working in the Shenandoah valley area in Virginia, I happened across a pile of discarded American Chestnuts pods along a local road. I grabbed up a pile of them, then later stuck the individual nuts in putting soil. Many germinated. When they were a couple inches tall I set them outside for sun. Dang squirrel yanked most out! But of the couple that survived, I managed for one to take good footing in my yard. Now, several years later it stands about 12ft tall, just as broad, and about 4-6″ at the base of the trunk and appears… Read more »

Cole Lambrix

It will likely need a mate tree, since they have male and female flowers on one tree but they rarely self pollinate.

Cat Vaillancourt

I have a house that is 232 years old, during renovations my husband discovered that it was built with chesnut. The flooring in the attic space had numerous planks of chesnut that we utilized and made kitchen cabinet doors and base board trim in various other rooms. Making this house definitely one of a kind, and understanding why there has been no termites, carpenter ants or rot with destruction.

ChalengerX

I’m trying to find a highly porous, or more importantly absorbent wood for a project. Would this wood be good? In particular I would like to find a wood that can absorb wax if at all possible, and so I’ve been thinking that porous and large pours are probably necessities.

Jenny Valentine Baxter

I have a huge American chestnut that needs to come out and I’m trying to figure out how much it would be worth and how I can find a buyer. I have no idea where to start. Any ideas?

Stephen Bannasch

If you have a large tree then it is resistant to the Chestnut blight. Consider contacting the American Chestnut Foundation and have them collect and start some seedlings from your tree: https://www.acf.org/ before cutting it down.

David Gallagher

I just had someone give me some chestnut that was near a structure..it was cut down already and posted for firewood..some of the log sections had small little living branches. Can I put those in something and start saplings ?

Charles March

Yard trees are worthless because they figure that owners nail nails and other metal objects into it.

Erik Wollum

To a mill perhaps, but someone with a portable mill such as myself I’d be willing to risk a busted or damaged blade for something as rare as chestnut

James Swigert

You don’t know what your talking about when it comes to Chestnut. People spend big money to buy Chestnut reclaimed from old barns, houses,etc… People will pay big money for Chestnut. As far as sawing it they have a thing called a metal detector and most people that harvest trees and those who run sawmills own one