Dunstan: The King of Chestnuts

American chestnuts once reigned supreme over the eastern hardwood forest, but were wiped out by blight in the blink of a geologic eye. Thanks to a serendipitous discovery and careful breeding, a new king has arisen in Dunstan Chestnut, a superior nut and a superior tree.

Historically, American chestnuts were the most abundant species in the hardwood forests of eastern North America. Then came the blight, a bark fungus that was accidentally introduced in 1904. More than 30 million acres of chestnut trees that once stretched from Maine to Georgia and west to the Mississippi were all but wiped out in less than a human generation. For decades, biologists and foresters have searched the landscape for signs of hope. In the early 1950s, James Carpentar discovered a large American chestnut tree alive and healthy in a grove of dead and dying trees in Ohio.

He sent grafts of the tree to Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, a well-known plant breeder in Greensboro, NC, who grafted the grafts onto healthy rootstocks with promising results. Next, Dunstan crossed his graft trees with USDA-published Chinese varieties. Within a decade, the seedlings from him began to bear fruit. By selecting and crossing individuals that exhibited the best combination of nut and tree characteristics (resistance to blight and production of large, high-quality nuts), he was ultimately able to develop a superior variety: Dunstan Chestnut, the only chestnut the US received. Plant patents.

Dunstan eventually moved his second-generation cattle to North Central Florida, where the family established Chestnut Hill Nursery. In 1984, they planted a grove of 500 trees using grafts from the best second generation trees and third generation Dunstan seedlings. Those trees are over 50 feet tall and 16-20 inches in diameter today. More importantly, the parent trees are all blight resistant and produce superior nuts.

What makes Dunstan Chestnuts so much better? For starters, Dunstan’s chestnut trees can begin producing nuts in just 3 to 5 years, depending on care and climate, and will eventually compete with their parents in size and bounty, producing up to 2,000 pounds of nuts per acre in the maturity. Unlike their native ancestors, they were explicitly bred and have been shown to be resistant to blight. Unlike other hard mast species, they flower later so are less susceptible to frost and produce annually.

It’s not just quantity but size and nutrition that set Dunstan Chestnuts apart. They are larger than other varieties, averaging 15-35 walnuts per pound, compared to China walnuts (35-100/lb) and American walnuts (75-150/lb). Because they lack the tannins found in other mast species such as oaks, they are sweeter and more appealing to wildlife and human palates. They are more nutritious, containing four times the carbohydrates of a white oak acorn, 2.5 times the protein, and only a fraction of the fat.


  • Height at Maturity: 40′-60′
  • Spread: 30′-40′
  • Tree Form: Central Leader
  • USDA Zone: 5-9
  • Blooms: May-June
  • Drops Nuts: September-October
  • Soil: well drained, sandy loam
  • Soil pH: 5.5-6.5
  • Light Requirements: Full sun
  • Pollination: requires pollinator. Plant a minimum of 2 Dunstans, we recommend three or more for best pollination and mast production. The ideal space for nut production is 30 to 40 feet apart.
  • Suggested Pollinators: Dunstan Chestnut

Chestnut Hill is the best place to buy your deer feedlot and attractant plants because they offer a great selection, their plants are grown specifically to attract deer, and they offer customers different size plants at different growth levels. To ensure you receive the maximum benefit from their products, they also provide great advice and instructions on proper planting and care. For more information on Chestnut Hill Outdoors products and how to care for them, visit or call (855) 386-7826.

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