The chestnuts are a group of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs.
Aesculus X carnea, or red horse-chestnut, is an artificial hybrid between A. pavia (red buckeye) and A. Hippocastanum (horse -chestnut). The origin of the tree is not known, but it probably first appeared in Germany before 1820. The hybrid is a medium-size tree to 20–25 m tall, intermediate between the parent species in most respects, but inheriting the red flower color from A. pavia. It is a popular tree in large gardens and parks.
Chestnut trees are of moderate growth rate (for the Chinese chestnut tree) to fast-growing for American and European species.Their mature heights vary from 10-60m.
Leaved & Flower: The leaves are simple, ovate or lanceolate, 10–30 cm long and 4–10 cm wide, with sharply pointed, widely spaced teeth, with shallow rounded sinuates between. The flowers follow the leaves, appearing in late spring or early summer or into July. They are arranged in long catkins of two kinds, with both kinds being borne on every tree.Some catkins are made of only male flowers, which mature first. Chestnut flowers are not self-compatible, so two trees are required for pollination. All Castanea species readily hybridize with each other.
The fruit is contained in a spiny (very sharp) cupule 5–11 cm in diameter, also called “bur” or “burr”.The burrs are often paired or clustered on the branch and contain one to seven nuts according to the different species, varieties, and cultivars.Around the time the fruits reach maturity, the burrs turn yellow-brown and split open in two or four sections. They can remain on the tree longer than they hold the fruit, but more often achieve complete opening and release the fruits only after having fallen on the ground; opening is partly due to soil humidity.
- The fruit can be peeled and eaten raw.
- Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, which can then be used to prepare breads, cakes, pies, pancakes, pastas or used as thickener for stews, soups, and sauces.
- Chestnuts are often added to animal fodder. A first soak in limewater removes their bitterness. It is given to horses and cattle in the Orient and to pigs in England & France.
- Chestnut timber is decorative. Light brown in colour, it is sometimes confused with oak wood.
- Chestnut buds have been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health.
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