Ranking Chestnuts by taste/nut quality


I planted quite a few Dunstan trees. Some of the largest are just now starting to produce nuts. Let me start by defining Dunstan. Dunstan is the name of a specific hybrid between Chinese and American. With this definition, all Dunstan trees are grafted. Chestnuts are generally more true to seed than many tree species. Dunstan is also trade name of Chestnut Hill. They now sell trees under the trade name Dunstan that are grown from nuts of grafted Dunstan (first definition) trees.

So, to be clear, I started with nuts from grafted Dunstan trees, cold stratified them, and started them under lights using a root pruning container system. I then planted them in the field. I protected some with tree tubes and left others unprotected. The first year I planted was 2013. Some of the protected trees are now producing nuts. None of the unprotected “trees” are producing. I put trees in quotes because they are more bushes than trees. The deer keep them from forming a central leader. I doubt if they will ever produce.

I planted my trees for wildlife. Chestnuts are too high in carbs for my restrictive diet, so I have not tasted Dunstan chestnuts so I can’t provide any information there.

As for Allegheny Chinquapins, they grow wild at my place. I collected nuts and grew them in root pruning containers. They naturally take a bush form and produce nuts in just a couple years. The nuts are much smaller than chestnuts. I did taste one of them and they are quite sweet. They have one nut in each husk and are smaller than a marble. They are susceptible to blight, but unlike chestnuts, blight does not inhibit nut production. They respond to blight similar to how the respond to fire. They top-kill and then begin producing new shoots form the root system. It takes only a year or two for them to start producing nuts again.

A friend on another forum posted some pictures of ACs that he planted years ago that he got from the Wildlife Group. They are much larger trees than any on my place. I don’t know if it is location or if there is that much variety in phenotype.


@muchtolearn look at page 6 of this to see what the japanese are doing http://www.centerforagroforestry.org/pubs/chestnut.pdf


I have about 20 well-established chestnut saplings. My plan is to attempt grafting half of them this spring. They range in size from 1.5 to 3 inches just above the root collar. I was hoping to graft very low and eventually pile on the mulch. Ideally, the upper-stock would root and this would prevent any kind of late rejections.

I feel very comfortable doing bark grafts—I’m fine at bark grafting pecan, persimmon, etc. How well do chestnuts take to bark grafting?

I want hardy cultivars that do well in South Georgia (zone 8a/8b border). Are there any that are must-haves. I spoke with Tom Wahl, and he suggested Qing and Auburn Super, which he carries scion wood for.

Perhaps @castanea and @forestandfarm can help me out?


Hi, Dax.

In my country Chestnuts are quite popular and we have large plantations in the Northern part of the country. I have planted a few trees of very good Portuguese varieties, as i like them very much (but i lack the cold conditions that Chestnuts like, so we will see in the following years if it was a good bet), and all the trees i bought were grafted.

I can also tell you that all the commercial plantations use grafted trees. The occasional tree from seedling is sold to casual farmers, but they only buy them because the grafted versions are much more expensive.

Chestnuts are most susceptible to root-rot disease caused by the fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi and so, using a resistant root stock is a must (last year a million chestnuts died in Portugal from this disease alone, and the damage was probably worst due to the changing climatic conditions, that seem to enhance the disease effects).
The newer root stocks are hybrids, obtained from crossing European Chestnuts (Castanea sativa) and Japanese Chestnuts ( Castanea crenata), like ColUTAD. These are almost immune to root-rot disease, so new plantations are using them almost exclusively.

Unfortunately, probably when trying to develop these root stock hybrids, a parasitic gall wasp made it’s way to Europe (Italy) and it already arrived in Spain and some parts of Portugal. If nothing is done quickly, most European plantations will be decimated by this parasitic wasp, as biological control attempts are failing.


Perhaps @castanea can help. I have not been very successful at grafting chestnuts. In my experience, they respond to injury but putting up new shoots from the root system rather than pushing grafts. I know it is possible and I’ve seen it done, but since I have not had much success myself, I’ll leave the suggestions to others.

Most of my experience is with growing them from seed.


Are yours Chinese? How tall are they? Can you post a photo of one?


If you’re trying to graft Chinese trees you will have better success waiting for them to get larger and then top working them, rather than trying to graft small stock.


They are Chinese as far as I know. This is a bad photo, I am away from the farm ATM. This is a line of 8 or so spaced 32 feet apart.


We can’t really discuss what you should plant until we know what your soil pH is, what the soil drainage is like, what your cold hardiness zone is, and what your summer high and low temperatures are.


I can tell you that grafting chestnuts is a very old procedure over here, way before this disease started causing problems, and hybrid root stocks had to be used, as it was the only way to ensure that the characteristics of the good varieties (big size, good taste, easy to peel, abundant production) were propagated in the new orchards - something that would not happen when using seedlings.

If you search the net for “enxertia do castanheiro” or “injerto castano” you will find a few videos of traditional grafting of chestnuts, using several different methods like whip and tongue, t-bud and bark grafting techniques and wild seedling are used as root stock. A traditional type of graft is also used (a complete ring with a bud is removed from the scion and placed into the peeled root stock - like when you peel a banana - i don’t know the name of that grafting technique in english). These all work.


pH 6-6.5
Highs: around 100
Lows: mid teens
Heavy clay soil that eventually does drain–none of these trees are in a low spot.


I would suggest waiting until they are quite a bit larger. The smaller they are, the more likely they will abandon the graft and throw up new sprouts. Super is a good choice. Qing is a good tree but has many delayed graft union failures so I would not recommend it for you. In your area I would suggest you focus on planting high quality seedlings and then only graft the seedling trees that produce poor quality nuts.


Forestandfarm has Chinese trees, not European trees. Grafting is different. Hybrid stocks are not needed because castanea mollissima is more resistant to root rot than your hybrid stocks.


The heavy clay is probably going to be a problem.


I am tempted to yank most of them out and plant pecan, hickory or black walnut. I am mainly growing them for my animals. I haven’t been impressed with any of the chestnuts I’ve sampled so far. Not to say there aren’t good ones out there.

I did pick up some Qing and Super seedlings from Tom last year.


OK, Thanks. I hadn’t noticed that yet. Sorry for the confusion.


Chinese chestnuts love your climate and would do really well in well drained soil. But in clay they are probably never going to do well. A few Szego, Qingsu and Luvall’s Monster seedlings from Tom might be OK to try because they’re all more vigorous than most pure Chinese chestnuts (Szego and LM are hybrids), but pecans and hickory are probably a better way to go.


I will graft the largest trees this coming season even if it’s a complete loss. How thick is the bark of say a 2-3 inch diameter chestnut sapling. My fear is once you get above a certain diameter, the bark is too thick and it tends to break, or is difficult to work with.

Also, is bud-break a good time to graft? Or, should I wait until the tree has small leaves?

Some of these trees are about 8 feet tall and produced a few nuts this past year. I was quite entertained with the husks.


The bark is not going to be too thick. I have grafted a chestnut tree that was about 18-20 feet tall with at least a 6-7 inch diameter with little problem. 3 out of 3 grafts took. The larger the tree and older the tree the better the chance that the grafts will take.Grafting should take place when the trees are actively growing which probably means late April or May for you.

Here’s the 20 foot tall graft -


I bought some dunstan chestnuts from Chestnut Ridge of Pike County. WOW are they good! Easy to peel and sweet, so much better than the larger chinese nuts I had gotten from the Asian food store. I hope to continue to see their product in stores here, they were so good, I had them for dinner tonight. Just buttered bread and chestnuts. :heart_eyes: