IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
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Chestnuts in Spain

Chestnut blight threat to Spanish chestnuts

The epidemic of chestnut blight or canker (sp. Chancro) ravaging across Spain could eradicate chestnut trees from the Peninsula and southern France in the next 20 years. Chestnut blight arrived to the Peninsula in 1950 with American chestnuts which were used to replace European trees, themselves decimated by another blight, chestnut ink disease (tinta del castaño). One solution proposed involves inoculating some 20 chestnuts per hectare with a similar but non-fatal fungus.

Chestnuts are found in Spain from Galicia to Navarra (including northern Leon and Zamora), in Catalonia (including the 2,500ha Biosphere Reserve of Montseny), in the Cordillera Central in Salamanca, Cáceres and Ávila. In Andalucía there are chestnuts in Sierra Morena, Serranía de Ronda and Sierra Nevada. There are an estimated 140.000 ha of chestnut forest in Spain. Under ideal conditions the tree can live for 1,000 years.

The chestnut tree is orginally from somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean and was introduced into Spain by the Romans. Chestnuts were a staple of the Galician diet until a terrible plague almost wiped out the tree in 1750’s, when it was replaced by that most Galician of foods: the potato. Chestnuts are still widely consumed in Spain in winter, often in conjunction with festivals, such as for the castanyada on and around All Saints Day in Catalonia.

The unrelated horse chestnut is a castaño de indios. Conkers and their associated rules and ruses are to my knowledge unknown to Spanish children.

  • castaño: chestnut tree
  • castaña; chestnut
  • castanyer (Cat): chestnut tree
  • gaztaña (Eus). chestnut tree
  • ourizo (Gal.) : chestnut casings ( from hedgehog in Galician);
  • souto (Gal.): chestnut plantation


See also Mounmental trees in Spain