Where space allows, these dense, large shade trees bring lush beauty and delicious nuts into the landscape. They just need to be sited where their litter and rank-smelling pollen won't be too obtrusive. All have handsome dark-to-bright green foliage. Small, creamy white flowers in long (8- to 10-in.), slim catkins make quite a display in summer. The large edible nuts are enclosed in prickly burs. Nuts fall to the ground when ripe. Gather daily, remove from burs, and dry in the sun (in shade in hot climates). Plant two or more trees to ensure cross-pollination and a substantial crop; single trees bear lightly or not at all. Give occasional deep irrigation.
Chestnut blight has made American chestnut (Castanea dentata) nearly extinct in its native range, but other species and hybrids that resist the disease are available.
Hybrid chestnuts. Two types of hybrid chestnuts are available. The first group comprises offspring of American and Chinese chestnuts (C. dentata and C. mollissima), with characteristics intermediate between the two (American chestnut isor wasa tall, broad timber tree with small but very sweet nuts). Included here are the blight-resistant Dunstan hybrids, 'Alachua', 'Carolina', 'Carpenter', 'Heritage', 'Revival', and 'Willamette'. The second group is made up mostly of crosses between Japanese chestnut (C. crenata) and European chestnut (C. sativa). Trees usually grow 4060 ft. tall and wide and do not tolerate alkaline soils. Selections include 'Colossal', 'Nevada' (small-nutted type; proven pollinator for 'Colossal'), 'Schrader', 'Skioka', and 'Sleeping Giant', which produces sweet, large nuts and is blight resistant.
Chinese chestnut. Native to China, Korea; known botanically as C. mollissima. To 3540 ft. tall, with a rounded crown that may spread to 2025 ft. Leaves 37 in. long, with coarsely toothed edges. Most nursery trees are grown from seed, not cuttings; hence, nuts are variable but generally of good quality. Intolerant of alkaline soil. Recommended selections include 'AU-Cropper', 'AU-Homestead', 'AU-Leader', 'Black Beauty', 'Crane', 'Meiling', and 'Nanking'.
Allegheny chinkapin. This eastern U.S. native is known botanically as C. pumila. Usually a 6- to 10-ft.-tall shrub, but it can reach 2025 ft. Leaves are dark green above, fuzzy white underneath, 36 in. long, with sharply toothed edges. Nuts are sweet. Good in natural plantings and for attracting wildlife.