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Chestnut Trees (Castanea)

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The chestnut is one of the most popular trees in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the American chestnut is in grave danger. The chestnut industry is a profitable business because of the chestnut that the trees produce. Given the industry is booming all over Europe and Asia, the industry in America is almost non-existent. The chestnut blight, a fungus that arrived via a transplanted Asian chestnut patch in the 1900s, causes the downfall. That is to say, the American chestnut once covered North America and everyone coveted the chestnut. For two centuries, it was a major component of meals due both to its abundancy and its mild flavor.

So How Many Kinds of Chestnut Trees Are There?

Four different species of chestnut grow on this planet. They split the four species into seven different varieties. For instance, the American Chestnut splits into two different varieties. At the same time, two other trees bear the name chestnut. The Horse Chestnut and Water Chestnut do not fall into the same genus as the chestnuts we are discussing today. It is part of the Beech family, Fagaceae. Also, the chestnut tree is in the Castanea genus.

Geographical location splits the four species of chestnut trees.

Species of chestnut trees:

  • American Chestnut
  • European Chestnut
  • Chinese Chestnut
  • Japanese Chestnut

There was a time you could find 4 billion chestnut trees across North America. Eventually, the chestnut blight spread from the Asian species to the America species. The blight decimated the American species and decreased the Asian population. In order to protect the American species, a crossbreed was made between Asian and American species that could combat the blight. Despite the growth of the chestnut tree being more moderate in speed, re-populating North America is an insurmountable challenge. The European species has not faced the blight in the same way. At the present time, Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal are all thriving in chestnut growth and the business of chestnuts and timber.

How Large Do Chestnut Trees Grow?

The chestnut is a moderately growing tree. The American chestnut can grow between two and three feet a year. Moreover, the tree produces chestnuts around five years old. A mature chestnut grows to 50 to 70 feet. Where the chestnut thrives, it will reach closer to 100 feet in height. However, the European and Asian species do not reach the same heights. The Asian chestnut reaches 40 feet at maturity. The canopy of a chestnut spreads to 50 feet, creating a lovely, full shade.

What Do Chestnut Trees Look Like?

The trunk of the chestnut is thick and covered in a gray bark. It is a large tree with a tight canopy. The leaves are narrow and almost oval. Also, the leaves are dark green. The chestnuts grow in clusters. While every tree grows both male and female flowers, it cannot self-pollinate.

The chestnut is a hard nut with a strong outer shell. If you can get through the tough outer shell, then you will find sweet meat inside that tastes similar to a sweet potato. While it is edible raw, it is better to cook chestnuts. The most common method for cooking chestnuts is roasting.

Where Can I Find Chestnut Trees?

You will now rarely find chestnuts in nature across North America. In the event that you find one, the few growing are resistant to the chestnut blight. Additionally, they often must grow as solitary trees away from any others that could spread diseases to them. Scientists are trying to re-build the population in controlled environments.

The chestnut in Europe originated in Greece. The Greek culture spread the chestnut tree all throughout Europe for centuries. In other words, the European chestnut is the opposite of the American chestnut. It is plentiful. The chestnut industry is a major business in Europe. Europeans also brought the staple of their diet with them as they colonized. In fact, you will find chestnuts in South American orchards and even in Australia.

Finally, the Asian species are dominate across China and Japan. Asia is the largest producer of chestnuts in the world. That being said, they are also the largest consumers of chestnuts.

How Long Can a Chestnut Tree Live?

Fossil record shows the chestnut tree dates back 50 million years. Because of the high carbohydrate content, findings tell us that ancient man carried chestnuts as a food source. Indeed, the chestnut tree has always been a hardy and long-living tree. Chestnut trees can live for 700 to 800 years. Some species are longer living than others. The American chestnut is the longest living chestnut species, but has struggled with resilience. The European chestnut has a much shorter lifespan. For this reason, the lifespan of the European chestnut tree is only 150 years.


Can I Grow a Chestnut Tree?

Growing an American chestnut is an arduous task. While growing the tree is easy, protecting the tree from chestnut blight is challenging. You cannot collect chestnuts out in nature. Scientists control the growth of American chestnuts. A chestnut needs to grow in a solitary state. Almost all the chestnuts in North America are in their infancy. In addition, scientists are trying to re-build the American chestnut population.

The other species of chestnut are easier to grow, though gaining access to the saplings may prove difficult. Though orchards across the world show that growing chestnut trees in mass population is possible, it is still difficult. To be sure, the chestnut blight is still prevalent in North America and almost all the species are susceptible to it.

Generally speaking, a non-professional should steer clear of the chestnut tree. Professionals are doing their best to control and save the chestnut tree.

It Is Time To BRANCH Out Into Some Fun Tree Facts!

  • There were once four billion chestnut trees that stretched from Maine to Florida.
  • Chestnuts contain a significant amount of vitamin C, which is uncommon for a nut.
  • If you travel to Sicily, then you will find the largest and oldest chestnut tree in the world known as the Hundred Horse Chestnut.

What Are Some Uses for Chestnut Trees?

Natural Uses

The chestnut industry is almost unsustainable. The demand for chestnuts is more than the amount that all the orchards produce. As has been noted, the chestnut tree can produce chestnuts at five years old, but this is still not enough to sustain the market. Asian countries demand and produce the largest amounts of chestnuts. However, Americans demand chestnuts at a high rate. Due to the blight, North America does little to help the abundance of chestnuts. The trees themselves are beautiful and create significant shade under their canopies. The leaves brew to make a medicinal tea that can treat respiratory and digestive ailments.

European chestnut

Chestnuts are a staple food for many Asian countries. You can consume the chestnut meat as is or you can grind it into flour. Notably, lactose free milk can be produced from ground chestnuts. Animals love to snack on chestnuts. Where chestnuts are plentiful, the animals depend on them for food.

Artistic Uses

Chestnuts are beautiful and are often used in artwork. Businesses use chestnut trees for logos for businesses and seen in countless cartoons. Nat King Cole memorializes the once popular roasted chestnut in American society.

While almost all Americans sing this song around Christmas time, very few generations have enjoyed the nut.

Residential/Commercial Uses

We seek chestnut wood for its unique properties. For one thing, chestnut wood is the most naturally rot resistant wood found. For this reason, shipbuilders and tanners use chestnut wood. The chestnut tree grows straight and is ideal for timber. We can cut long planes of wood from the trunk of the chestnut tree. Cabinetry, home construction, and even use chestnut timber. However, in North America, the wood is very difficult to come by. For anyone seeking this timber, the price tag is hefty. Though it is difficult, we can still find some older homes built with chestnut wood. In parts of eastern America, builders used the tough bark to make roof shingles. If you are seeking lumber, your best option is to find reclaimed wood from old construction.

Wrap Up

The chestnut is an ancient tree. At this present time, it grows all over the world, in orchards. You cannot find chestnut trees in nature across all of North America. The chestnuts that fall from the chestnut tree are a sought after food source. Not only do animals seek the chestnuts for their high fat and carbohydrate content, but many societies also depend on the meat of the chestnut. You cannot grow a chestnut tree on your own in North America. The chestnut blight that annihilated the entire American chestnut population can still destroy trees. The timber is the most versatile wood because of the wood being rot resistant and strong. On the whole, the chestnut tree is a major producer and part of human societies. However, this is not true for North America, who has all but lost their chestnut culture.

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