The Chestnut is well known as a large tree, spreading its branches finely where it has room, but planted closely, will shoot up straight to a great height. It is supposed to have been originally from Sardis. It is so common as to be considered a native of France and Italy, and some consider it as naturalized in England; it is also indigenous in America. The London catalogues contain the names of thirty-two sorts under cultivation. The Chestnut is, like the Walnut, both a timber and fruit tree; some of the oldest trees in the world are of this species.* The American Chestnut differs so little from the European, that no specific distinction can be drawn. It is one of the largest trees of the forest, the wood being extremely durable, and in high esteem for posts and rails to construct fences; and the nuts are very delicious. The Castanea pumila, or Chinquapin nut, is a small tree, or rather shrub, growing to the height of thirty feet in the Southern States, but seldom exceeding ten in cold latitudes; the fruit is very sweet and agreeable to eat.
There is a variety with striped leaves, which is very ornamental. The most esteemed of the French kinds are called Marron. Some excellent fruit-bearing varieties are cultivated in England, France, Italy, and Spain, as also in other parts of Europe; these are increased by grafting or budding in the usual methods, but the plants for coppice wood, or timber, are best raised from nuts. Some varieties ripen their fruit a few days earlier than others, but none of these have been fixed on, or perpetuated by nurserymen, so as to render them available to purchasers. The fruit is a desirable nut for autumn or winter, and is eaten roasted, with salt, and sometimes raw; and in some countries it is not only boiled and roasted, but ground into meal, and puddings, cakes, and bread are made from it.
* At Fortworth, in Gloucestershire, England is a large tree, fifty-two feet round, which in 1150 was called the "Great Chestnut of Fortworth." Marsham states that this tree is 1100 years old, and that the timber is almost incorruptible, and more durable than oak. Its durability is commensurate with the long life of the tree.