This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
" F. L. S." asks whether the American and European chestnuts are varieties of the same thing, and in what part of Europe the chestnut is native? We give the answer under our literary column, because the question is rather one for history to solve. It is hard to say, in the ordinary sense of the word "native," whether the European chestnut is native there. It is wild there, and there seems to be evidence that it has been wild for at least 3,000 years. Some believe, however, that it was not known in Europe till brought from Thessaly, and the Latin name Castanea, is supposed to be derived from a Grecian town of that name, near which it is believed they once abounded.
The chestnut is found in Japan, as well as in the United States. As to whether the American, European and Japanese forms are varieties of one thing, or distinct species, it is hard to say. If we adopt Mr. Darwin's idea of natural selection, a species is nothing but a collection of individuals which have departed by variation from some central form and in which the collecting links have been lost. It depends, on this view, how many links have been lost - that is to say, how far one form is removed from another form, whether it is to be considered a variety or species. The relationships of these chestnuts are so close that they must be regarded as on the border line, and possibly eminent botanists would hardly be unanimous in placing them as species.
The European chestnut is more nearly allied to the Japan form than to the American. It is probable that in the long, long ago, there was but one form - that the Japan and American colonies became isolated perhaps from the great I ocean being formed between them, and by this very long time have assumed separate characteristics, just as a colony of isolated human beings do ; that since - perhaps long since - this event the chestnut has gradually travelled from Asia to Europe, and that because this is more recent than the separation of the American colony, there has not been time for as great a departure as in the case of the American form. After all, the difference between native or indigenous, and introduced or wild, is merely one of time. All things in this world are on their travels, and it is quite likely every few thousand i years the character of the vegetation in any one place becomes completely changed.