Species Profile

American Chestnut

Scientific Name: Castanea dentata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2004
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A4ace; B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v); C2a(i); D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Once a dominant tree in well drained forests of the Eastern Deciduous Forest, this species was devastated by chestnut blight in the first part of the 20th century. The species is still present throughout most of its former range, but as a few scattered individuals that have sprouted from root crowns. Most of these succumb to the blight before reaching a substantial size and fewer than 150 are large enough to produce seed. The species requires cross-pollination and seed set is reduced because mature individuals are widely scattered. Threats to the species include the continuous presence of the blight, aging and attrition of the root crowns, land clearing in some remaining sites, and hybridization with other species.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 1987. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2004.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of American Chestnut

American Chestnut Photo 1

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Description

American chestnut is a member of the beech family. It is the only species of chestnut native to Canada. It has elongate leaves tapered at both ends and large teeth along the margins. Flowers are arranged in catkins with numerous tiny male flowers and a cluster of several female flowers at the base of some of the catkins. When cross-pollinated with another chestnut tree by an insect pollinator, the female flowers develop into spiny bur-like fruits enclosing one to several chestnuts. This species once was a dominant tree in many areas of the eastern deciduous forests of North America, but has been greatly reduced by the introduction of the chestnut blight disease a century ago. (Updated 2017/05/30)

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Distribution and Population

This species occurs throughout eastern North America from southern Maine to southern Ontario and Michigan, south to Georgia to Mississippi. Remnants of once large populations of this tree still survive across most of its historical range in southern Ontario as well as most of the states within its range to the south. (Updated 2017/05/30)

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Habitat

The typical habitat is upland deciduous forests on sandy acidic soils, occurring with red oak, black cherry, sugar maple and beech. (Updated 2017/05/30)

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Biology

This species is a shade-tolerant forest tree needing a canopy cover for effective seedling establishment. It produces both male and female flowers on the same tree in late spring to early summer. It is insect pollinated and requires cross-pollination for seed set. Nuts are produced in the fall of the same year and are sought after by squirrels, chipmunks and large birds that also disperse the seeds beyond the parent trees. (Updated 2017/05/30)

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Threats

The introduction of the chestnut blight fungus in about 1904 devastated populations of this species throughout its natural range, including its Canadian distribution in southern Ontario. Most individuals are stump sprouts that never reach fruiting size. Recovery planning has identified possible hybridization with Asian species in native stands as another potential threat. (Updated 2017/05/30)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The American Chestnut is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

American Chestnut Recovery Team

  • John Ambrose - Chair/Contact - Private consultant
    Phone: 519-821-8653  Send Email
  • Greg Boland - Chair/Contact - University or college
    Phone: 519-824-4120  Send Email

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the American Chestnut Castanea dentata in Canada (2005-08-12)

    American chestnut is a member of the beech family. It is the only species of chestnut native to Canada. It has elongate leaves tapered at both ends and large teeth along the margins. Flowers are arranged in catkins with numerous tiny male flowers and a cluster of several female flowers at the base of some of the catkins. When cross-pollinated with another chestnut tree by an insect pollinator, the female flowers develop into spiny bur-like fruits enclosing one to several chestnuts. This species once was a dominant tree in many areas of the eastern deciduous forests of North America, but has been greatly reduced by the introduction of the chestnut blight disease a century ago.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - American Chestnut (2005-11-15)

    Once a dominant tree in well drained forests of the Eastern Deciduous Forest, this species was devastated by chestnut blight in the first part of the 20th century. The species is still present throughout most of its former range, but as a few scattered individuals that have sprouted from root crowns. Most of these succumb to the blight before reaching a substantial size and fewer than 150 are large enough to produce seed. The species requires cross-pollination and seed set is reduced because mature individuals are widely scattered. Threats to the species include the continuous presence of the blight, aging and attrition of the root crowns, land clearing in some remaining sites, and hybridization with other species.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) in Canada (2019-01-31)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister under SARA for the American Chestnut and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub sections 41(1) or (2)). The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) led the development of the attached recovery strategy for the American Chestnut (Part 2) in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Province of Ontario also led the development of the attached Government Response Statement (Part 3), which is the Ontario Government’s policy response to its provincial recovery strategy and summarizes the prioritized actions that the Ontario government intends to take and support.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005-11-16)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update September 1, 2019
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