This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Deciduous trees or shrubs having the male flowers clustered on long naked cylindrical catkins, with a 5- or 6-partite perianth and 8 to 15 stamens. Female flowers 2 or 3 together in a prickly 4-lobed involucre, which eventually completely encloses the coriaceous glossy brown fruits or nuts. The species are widely dispersed in the north temperate zone. Named by the ancients after a town in Thessaly.
1. C. vesca. Sweet or Spanish Chestnut. - A gigantic tree with rugged bark and often a twisted trunk. Leaves glabrous, oblong-lanceolate, acute, coarsely and sharply serrate. Flowers yellowish green, appearing in June. This handsome tree appears to have been originally introduced into Europe from Asia Minor, and has been extensively cultivated for a very long period for its edible nuts. The varieties worth cultivating for ornamental purposes, besides the ordinary one, are not numerous. Perhaps the C. vesca foliis aureo-marginatis, with golden-edged foliage; and C. v. heterophylla dissecta, in which the leaves are divided into thin thread-like segments, are the best.