Distinguishing American from Chinese and European chestnut

Sometimes, individuals who come across a tall chestnut tree in a forest setting, assume it must be an American chestnut.  This is not always the case.  In forest settings, Chinese chestnut, like its American cousin, also can grown straight and tall.  Leaf shape, leaf hairs and twig color are good characteristics to distinguish American from Chinese chestnut.  American chestnut leaves are generally long and slender with a “V” at the leaf base.  Chinese chestnuts have a wider leaf and they are often shiny.  Chinese chestnut leaves have a “U” shape at the leaf base.  Most striking are the hairs on the under-surface of Chinese chestnut leaves.  American chestnut leaves have no hairs.  Chinese twigs, generally brown in color, also have hairs.  American twigs, generally exhibit a reddish color, and like the leaves, the twigs have no hairs.  Buds are another characteristic–American buds are pointed compared to rounded Chinese buds.

In some areas of the eastern U.S., European chestnut trees can be found.  In comparison, European twigs are much stouter than either American or Chinese chestnut.  Buds on a European are often large and green in early spring, turning darker by mid-summer.  Buds are green in the spring, turning dark in summer.

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