This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
On light sandy soils, where little else but fir and heath will grow, one may meet with considerable plantations of the Sweet or Spanish Chestnut. For centuries, and until quite recently, it was considered to be a native; but it is never found here forming natural forests, and only in the South in favourable situations does it ripen its fruit - usually small. Great plausibility was given to the supposition that Castanea was a native by the oft-repeated statement that its timber was to be seen in the roof of Westminster Abbey and in other old buildings. An examination of this timber years ago by Dr. Lindley - the eminent botanist - proved it to be oak, which it closely resembles. Again it was claimed as British on account of the great antiquity of certain living trees, such as "the great Chestnut of Tortworth," a name it bore in the reign of Stephen, when it must have been an ancient tree. It is now generally understood that the Chestnut was brought hither by the Romans, and that it got a more permanent footing on our land than its importers. It is grown chiefly for the sake of its young wood as hop-poles, fence-posts, and hoops. Unlike the oak, its timber deteriorates with age.
It is distinctly an acquisition to our woods and plantations, its long, toothed, shining leaves being fine both in shape and colour. Its male flowers are produced in long, yellow catkins, consisting of a great number of six-parted perianths; from these depend from ten to fifteen stamens, which discharge great quantities of pollen. The female flowers are borne in threes within an involucre (cupule), and each has its perianth adhering to the ovary; there are from five to eight cells in the ovary, and a similar number of stigmas, but, as a rule, only one cell matures one of its two ovules.
The name is said to be derived from Castanum, the name of a town in Thessaly whence the Romans first obtained the fruit.