Chestnut-leaved oak

This is Kew's biggest tree! The Tree Register of Britain and Ireland recognises it as an unrivalled champion – meaning you won't see a finer specimen anywhere in the country.

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Acorns of the chestnut-leaved oak

Acorns of the chestnut-leaved oak (Quercus castaneifolia)

Quick facts

  • Scientific name: Quercus castaneifolia
  • Family: Fagaceae
  • Place of origin: Caucasus (eastern Europe including Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia) to Iran.
  • Conservation status: Not Threatened
  • Date planted: 1846. This tree grew from one of the first batch of seeds brought to this country.
  • Height: 39.2 m

About Kew's chestnut-leaved oak

Seeds of the chestnut-leaved oak first arrived in Britain in 1843. Kew’s magnificent 30 m high specimen was planted in 1846. Almost as wide as it is high, it is still our fastest growing tree, and one of Kew’s biggest broad-leafed trees. During the great storm of 1987, many neighbouring trees blew down, but the chestnut-leaved oak didn’t even lose a limb.

Take a closer look

  • In spring, look for young twigs, which are soft and hairy.
  • Can you see why this tree gets its name? Its leaves are not the familiar lobed shape of other oaks. They are spear-shaped like the chestnut.
  • In autumn you will see this tree’s acorns in mossy cups, similar to those of the Turkey oak.

Tree biology

Given good conditions, oaks tend to grow quickly. The trunk of the oldest chestnut-leaved oak at Kew grew 3 m in girth in 60 years, and younger trees grow at an even faster rate – around 30 cm every four years. This rapid growth in the trunk can cause splits or fissures in the bark. This tree’s bark changes with age. Younger trees have black and smooth bark which later turns a dark grey and gains a ridged appearance.

Cultivation and uses

Chestnut-leaved oaks have never been widely planted in Britain, even in botanical collections, so Kew’s specimens are particularly valuable. Globally, it is a forestry and ornamental species but compared to other trees in Kew's arboretum its uses are relatively few. Its acorns are sometimes eaten by wildlife but even then, their bitterness makes them a lunch of last resort.

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