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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Castanea (ancient Latin name). Fagaceae. Chestnut. Fruit and ornamental trees, grown for their edible nuts and also for their handsome foliage and attractive flowers.

Deciduous trees, rarely shrubs: lvs. alternate, serrate, elliptic-oblong to lanceolate: fls. monoecious, the staminate ones with 6-parted calyx and 10-20 stamens, in long, erect, cylindrical catkins; the pistillate ones on the lower part of the upper catkins, usually 3 together in a prickly involucre; ovary 6-celled: fr. a large brown nut, 1-7 together in a prickly involucre or bur: winter-buds with 3-4 scales: branchlets without terminal bud.—About ten species in the temperate regions of N. E. Amer., Eu., N. Afr. and Asia.

The chestnuts are very attractive when in bloom. The handsome foliage is generally not injured by insects or fungi, but the whole tree is attacked by a serious disease known as the chestnut bark disease which has spread rapidly during the last years, chiefly in New York, Pennsylvania and the adjacent states. It was first discovered in 1904. It is caused by a fungus, Endothia parasitica, which penetrates the bark, develops its mycelium in bark and sapwood, finally girdles the branch or trunk and causes the death of the portion above the infected place. The presence of reddish pustules on the infected area is a sure sign of the presence of this fungus. The cutting and destroying of the infected parts seems so far the only way of checking the spreading of the disease. This disease was without doubt imported with plants from eastern Asia, as the disease has been discovered recently in China on C. mollissima. The latter species and C. crenala seem much more resistant than the American and European varieties and there is much hope for a successful selection and breeding of resistant varieties and for keeping this disease under control, as it is done successfully in China.

C. dentata and C. sativa are large-sized trees, while C. pumila and C. crenala usually remain shrubby. The coarse-grained wood is much used for furniture, railway ties and fence-posts, as it is very durable in the soil. The chestnut is extensively cultivated in Europe and eastern Asia and also in this country for its edible fruit. It grows best in well-drained soil on sunny slopes, and even in rather dry and rocky situations, but dislikes limestone soil. TheAmerican species is perfectly hardy North, while the European species is somewhat tenderer.

Propagated by seeds, sown in fall where there is no danger of them being eaten by mice or squirrels; otherwise they should be stratified in boxes and buried 1 or 2 feet deep in a warm soil until early spring, when they are sown in rows about 3 inches deep. If growing well, they can be transplanted the following fall or spring 2 or 3 feet apart from each other, and planted after three or four years where they are to stand. They are also increased by layers in moist soil. Varieties are usually worked on seedling stock or on sprouts by whipgrafting above the ground when the stock is just beginning; to push into leaf. Crown-grafting, root-grafting and budding are also sometimes practised, but no method gives wholly satisfactory results, and usually only one-half take well. See Chestnut.


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