(17) THE SWEET CHESTNUT
The SWEET CHESTNUT (Castanea vulgaris, Lam. ) is a large, long-lived, deciduous tree, of rapid growth while young, and attainijg a vast size in South Europe (e.g., the renowned chestnut of Mount Etna). It was early introduced to England, and is one of its most ornamental trees.
The timber bears as striking resemblance to that of the oak, which has been mistaken for chesnut; but it may be distinguished by the numerous fine medullary rays.
Unlike oak, the wood is more valuable while young than old. When not more than fifty years old it forms durable posts for fences and gates; but at that age it often begins to deteriorate, having ring shakes and central hollows. In a young state, when the stems are not above 2 inches in diameter at the ground, the chestnut is found to make durable hoops for casks and props for vines; and of a larger size it makes good hop-poles.
It is a native of Asia, North Africa, and North America. In Spain and Italy it is grown for its fruit, in Britain, for ornament. In the south of England in warm seasons it ripens its fruit, from which plants are easily raised. None of the other continental or American species are cultivated in Britain for their timber.
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