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Chestnut, American

Common Name(s): American Chestnut


Caused by an accidentally introduced Asian bark fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), the Chestnut blight of the early 1900s was responsible for killing over three billion chestnut trees. The wood in these standing trees was subsequently damaged by insects, leaving holes and discolouration. The trees were then subsequently harvested and converted into lumber (called Wormy Chestnut). Between the nail holes, discolouration, worm and insect damage, Wormy Chestnut is preferred in applications where a rustic or unpolished appearance is desired.

Thicknesses

Tree Size: 100-120 ft (30-37 m) tall, 5-7 ft (1.5-2.0 m) trunk diameter* *Because of the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, very few trees of this size currently exist

Distribution

Eastern United States

Scientific Name

Castanea dentata

Specific Gravity: Basic 

0.40

Specific Gravity: 12% MC

0.48

Janka Hardness

540 lbf (2,400 N)

Colour/Appearance

Heartwood is a light to medium brown, darkening to a reddish brown with age. Narrow sapwood is well-defined and is pale white to light brown. Wormy Chestnut is also seen, which is chestnut that has been damaged by insects, leaving holes and other discolouration in the wood.

Grain/Texture

Grain is straight to spiral or interlocked. With a coarse, uneven texture.

Endgrain

Ring-porous; 2-4 rows of large, exclusively solitary earlywood pores, numerous small latewood pores in dendritic arrangement; tyloses common; growth rings distinct; rays not visible without lens; apotracheal parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates (short lines between rays).

Rot Resistance

Rated as very durable, though many trees killed by the chestnut blight of the early 1900s were left standing and eventually were damaged by insects.

Workability

Overall easy to work with both hand and machine tools. Chestnut splits easily, so care must be taken in nailing and screwing the wood. Due to its coarse texture, turning is mediocre. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor

No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity

Although no adverse health effects have specifically been reported for American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), other types of Chestnut in the Castanea genus (C. sativa and C. mollissima) have been reported to cause skin irritation.

Pricing/Availability

Because of the blight wiping out nearly all mature American Chestnut trees, its lumber is both rare and (relatively) valuable. Wormy Chestnut in particular is usually salvaged from old barns and other structures, and reprocessed and sold as reclaimed lumber. Prices are likely to be high for a domestic hardwood.

Sustainability

This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
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