Sweet-Hart Chestnut

Castanea dentata x mollissima

Around 1906, the chestnut blight, Endothia parasitica, was introduced along the east coast of the United States and spread like wildfire through the forests. Devastating the once dominant American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, the blight had little to no effect on the Chinese Chestnut, Castanea mollissima, that were prominent throughout Asia. (Learn more from The American Chestnut Foundation ®)

In 1944, Mr. & Mrs. Bert Harter of Doylestown, Ohio were given three West Virginia Sweet Chestnut trees by Dr. Cather in order to help build their family orchard. The Harter's purchased subsequent Chinese Chestnuts of the "Hawk Variety" in 1946 from Mrs. Estella Hawk. After some years a hybrid was found growing among the orchard trees. Aborist, Dr. Oliver Diller, was in charge of finding a substitute for the American Sweet Chestnut at the time and was working at the Ohio Experiment Station in Wooster, Ohio. In 1961 he declared the Harter Chestnut the best sweet flavored chestnut found by his department and the USDA in Ohio. Practically a perfect cross between the two chestnuts, the Sweet-Hart was not only blight resistant but also a wonderful producer of sweet chestnuts. Boyd Nursery Company named the new chestnut the Hart Chestnut in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Bert Harter after Mrs. Mary Harter agreed to the new name. Producing pale yellow flowers throughout June and chestnuts throughout the summer, animals absolutely love the chestnuts and the tree makes an excellent addition for deer, turkey, and other wildlife plots, as it is a more consistent producer of food than oak trees.

Drake, Robert J. "Chestnut Crop Yields Profit, Finances Hobby." The Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 30 Oct. 1961: 51. Print.

Encyclopedic Entry

According to Michael A. Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants ...

  • Common Name:
    Sweet-Hart, Sweet Hart, Hart, Sweet Heart, Sweetheart, or Sweethart Chestnut
  • Type:
    Deciduous Shade & Nut Tree
  • Family-Genus-Species:
    Fagaceae Castanea dentata x mollissima
  • Sun Requirements:
    Full Sun
  • Rate:
    Slow to medium, 4 to 7 feet over a 3 to 4 year period.
  • Size:
    40' to 60' in height with equal spread
  • Hardiness:
    Zone 4 to 8. For an idea of your plant zone please visit the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
  • Habit:
    Rounded in youth, developing a rounded to broad-rounded outline at maturity, usually low-branched.
  • Landscape Value:
    Best as a replacement for the American Chestnut, Castanea dentata; valued for fruits and subsequent nuts. While the fruits' prickly covers are a real nuisance and fall over an extended period of time, it has sometimes been used as a sidewalk and street tree - go figure!
  • Flowers:
    Pale yellow or creamy, of heavy, unpleasant odor, monoecious, staminate in erect cylindrical catkins, pistillate on the lower part of the upper staminate catkins, usually 3 female in a pricly symmetrical involucre, borne in a 4 to 5 inches long and wide panicle in June.
  • Soil Preference:
    Prefers acid (pH between 5.5 and 6.5), well-drained, loamy soil. Does well in hot, dry climates and is easily transplanted when young.
  • Diseases & Insects:
    Blight, twig canker of aseatic chestnuts, weevils which damage the roots; this species is not immune to chestnut blight but highly resistant.
  • Leaves:
    Leaves are reddish upon unfolding and change to a lustrous dark green in the summer. They culminate to a shade of yellow and bronze in fall and throughout the summer are 3 to 6 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide. Leaves are alternate, simple, oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, rounded at base, and coarsely serrate.
  • Planting Instructions:
    Dig a hole three times the diameter of the root system, with a depth no deeper than the original soil line on trunk. Break up the soil to the finest consistency possible. Place plant in hole and fill, compacting the fill dirt. Water the plant heavily to seal soil around the roots and remove air pockets. Water well, and remember to water regularly until they have started to grow.
  • Fertilization:
    Fertilize an area three times the canopy spread of the tree 1 to 2 times a year with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. Only fertilize an established tree.
  • Nuts:
    Spiny burs approximately 2 to 2 and a half inches in diameter develop from mid-July until August, ripening during October and November. Upon ripening, burs split open to reveal one to five dark brown sweet-meated nuts within a velvet-lined case.

Photo Gallery

Castanea dentata x mollissima Castanea dentata x mollissima Castanea dentata x mollissima
Castanea dentata x mollissima Castanea dentata x mollissima Castanea dentata x mollissima

Sweet-Hart Chestnuts for Wildlife Food Plots

Castanea dentata x mollissima

Coming soon!

Where can the Sweet-Hart Chestnut be purchased?

We currently maintain a private orchard of Sweet-Hart Chestnut trees on our farm. We are in the process of producing viable stock for the coming year. If you are interested in reserving Sweet-Hart Chestnut seedlings upon availability, please contact us.