The Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) was probably introduced to Britain by the Romans. It is native to Southern Europe but has now become common on light non-chalky soils throughout Britain. In Kent there are large woodlands full of Sweet Chestnut, planted for the production of hop poles used in the brewing trade. It has been grown for centuries for its edible seed – the sweet chestnut. Despite its common name it is a member of the Beech family and not the Horse Chestnut family.

Sweet Chestnut tree

A Sweet Chestnut tree at the end of June.

Sweet Chestnut tree catkins

Male flowers are in the form of a vertical catkin with female flowers at the base of the catkin. This photo, taken in July, shows the male flowers before they are open. When open they release pollen which may be carried by wind or insects that are attracted by the strong smell.

Sweet Chestnut tree bark

Old trees have ridges that spiral round the trunk. Some trees have very strongly twisted ridges like this.

The leaf is very large and sharply toothed and has a glossy upper surface. Some leaves can be nearly twice this size.

When the pollen reaches a female flower, fertilisation takes place and the flower develops into a fruit and looks like this in August.

The husk splits to release the chestnuts in October. Botanically this is a nut like an acorn or Beech nut.