The Q&A Archives: Chinese Chestnut Trees

Question: I planted two Chinese chestnut trees over ten years ago. One is about 6ft tall, the other only 1ft tall but has begun to prosper this year after transplanting. Neither have shown any signs of bearing nuts. The larger one has 3 trunks, possibly growing from below the graft. Can I remedy this problem? They both look quite healthy during the season.

Answer: Castanea, or Chestnut trees, reach 60 feet in height at maturity, with a 40 foot canopy spread. Most trees are grown from seed, not cuttings, so it's doubtful that your multi-trunked tree has sprouted below a graft. A more reasonable explanation is that the terminal bud on the central leader was damaged while the tree was still young. Sensing this, two lateral branches tried to take over. It's probably a race between the three to see which one can dominate the others. Save the strongest looking trunk and remove the competitors by cutting close to the trunk, just in front of the swollen branch collar. These wounds will eventually heal on their own. Your 10 year old trees are stunted, probably due to poor location and lack of water. They've expended all of their energy just trying to stay alive over the past 10 years. Until they become established and begin to grow more rapidly, they won't have the energy to produce flowers and develop nuts. Keep your trees well watered, especially during the hot summer months, by supplying water once a week. Dig a basin around each tree and flood the basin each week for an entire year until the roots become established. The following year you should only have to apply water during the spring, summer and fall months. By the third year, you should only have to water during the heat of the summer. Once your trees are established and growing at a normal pace they should flower and bear edible nuts.

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