The American chestnut, a tall tree about 30 m in height, has a dark brown bark which cracks with age. The leaves measure 15 to 30 cm in length and 5 to 10 cm in width; each leaf has a long point and jagged sides. At maturity, the leaves become green and smooth-edged. The unisexual flowers grow on a catkin. The brown nuts are flat and enclosed in a pointed shell 5 to 8 cm in diameter.
The American chestnut have been found at approximately 140 sites in Canada. The number of trees at these sites varies from one to several hundred. Trees with a diameter of at least 10 cm occur at only 49 sites. Unfortunately, the larger populations are composed mainly of trees affected by chestnut blight and consist mostly of stump sprouts. In Canada, the distribution of this tree is limited to southern Ontario.
In Canada, the American chestnuts are members of deciduous forest communities; this tree prefers arid forests with acid and sandy soils. The American chestnut is found almost exclusively in the United States, and is only found in Ontario because of the moderating influence of the Great Lakes.
The main cause of death for the American chestnut is a blight fungus which manifests as cankers. The cankers enlarge until they surround the trunk of the tree, preventing vascular circulation between the roots and the branches, which causes the crown of the tree to die. Logging of these trees is another limiting factor for the species.
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.
Most of the American chestnuts are on land belonging to public agencies such as conservation authorities, counties and districts, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Several sites are protected through forestry management agreements which forbid the cutting of these trees.
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.
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.
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.
The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister for the recovery of the American Chestnut and has prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). In the spirit of cooperation of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Government of Ontario has given permission to the Government of Canada to adopt the Recovery Strategy for the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) in Ontario under section 44 of SARA. Environment Canada has included an addition which completes the SARA requirements for this recovery strategy. The American Chestnut Ontario Government Response Statement has also been included as part of the adoption to clarify the priorities for implementation. A Government Response Statement is the Ontario Government’s policy response to the recovery strategy that summarizes the prioritized actions that the government intends to take.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, hereby acknowledges receipt of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (see footnote a) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed Schedule.
Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.
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.
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 March 17, 2017