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abundant on the Apennines, especially at Valombrosa, and also between Florence and Bologna, and we cannot help noticing a circumstance mentioned by Sir T. D. Lauder, as having struck him when in Italy, and with which we were ourselves very much pleased when there; viz. that these chestnut trees on the Apennines are generally scattered over a surface resembling the greensward of a British lawn. According to Dr. R. A. Philippi, Castanea vésca does not appear to be wild in any part of Etna, but always to be cultivated. "We noticed it," he says, "on the sides of Mount Zoccolaro, at a height of 3900 ft.; and Gemmellaro is said to have traced it as high as 5100 ft.; but this is probably a mistake, arising from an erroneous calculation of the altitude. On the south side of the Alps, the chestnut trees reach to 2500 ft., and on the Pyrenees to 2800 ft. Etna is celebrated for the great age and colossal dimensions of its chestnut trees: the noted Castagno di Cento Cavalli has a circumference near the root of 180 ft.; the Castagno di Santa Agata, 70 ft.; and the Castagno della Nave, 64 ft. Their stems, however, attain no great height, but soon branch off above the ground; and, in regard to the first-mentioned one, it seems probable to me that not one stem, but many, shoot from the same root; for there are now 5 individual trunks separate from each other; and it is a general custom in Sicily, when these trees attain a diameter of about 1 ft., to cut them down just above the root, when a number of new shoots are thrown out, which shortly become trees again. M. Brunner is of the same opinion, as is stated in his Excursion through the East of Liguria, Elba, Sicily, and Malta." (See Comp. to Bot. Mag., vol. i. p. 90.) In North America, the sweet chestnut is found as far as lat. 44° N., in New Hampshire; where, however, it is less common than in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is most abundant in the mountainous districts of the Carolinas and of Georgia, and abounds on the Cumberland Mountains, and in East Tennessee; preferring, in all these countries, the sides of mountains, or the fertile gravelly soils in their immediate vicinity.
History. The sweet chestnut is generally said to have been brought to Europe by the Greeks, from Sardis, in Asia Minor, about 504 B. C. It was first called, in Greek, Sardianos Balanos, the Sardis nut; afterwards Dios Balanos Lopimon, from its being considered to bear some resemblance to the walnut, except in the smoothness of its inner bark. The name of Castanea was given to it from Kastanea, the name of a city in Pontus, in Asia; and also of one in the Vale of Tempe, near the river Peneus; in both which places the chestnut grew in great abundance, being a native of the former locality, and having been first planted in Greece in the latter, whence it was sent, in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, to Rome. It is evident that the Romans received the chestnut from the Greeks, as they called it both Castanea and Glans Sardiana. Theophrastus mentions that, in his time, Mount Olympus was nearly covered with chestnut trees; and Pliny enumerates eight kinds that were known to the Romans in his day. Pliny adds that chestnuts were ground into meal, and made into bread, by the poor. These were of an inferior kind, to which he gives the name of populares; and he adds that there was another sort, which were generally boiled, and which were called coctivæ. He like"Under the common name of nuts, we comprehend, also, chestsays, nuts, though they partake rather of the nature of acorns; except that they have a larger and more prickly covering. It is surprising that we set so little value upon a fruit which nature has taken so much pains to preserve from injury. Sometimes three nuts are found in one of these prickly covers. first skin of the nut is flexible; but the second has a bad taste in the mouth, like the skin of the walnut: therefore care should be taken to remove it. Chestnuts are better roasted than cooked in any other manner." (Nat. Hist.) One of the largest and oldest chestnut trees in the world is that on Mount Etna, above mentioned, and which is called Castagno di Cento Cavalli, because, as it is said, Jean of Arragon, on her road from Spain to Naples, visited Mount Etna, attended by her principal nobility, and was caught in a heavy shower; when the queen, and a hundred cavaliers, took shelter under the branches of this tree, which completely covered them, and saved them
from the rain. (Houel, Voyage en Sicile, tom. ii. p. 79.) The author adds, however, that the Spanish queen's visit is somewhat apocryphal. The tree itself, when visited by M. Houel, was in a state of decay: it had lost the greater part of its branches, and its trunk was quite hollow. A house was erected in the interior, with some country people living in it, with an oven, in which, according to the custom of the country, they dried chestnuts, filberts, and other fruits, which they wished to preserve for winter use; using as fuel, when they could find no other, pieces cut with a hatchet from the interior of the tree. In Brydone's time, in 1770, this tree measured 204 ft. in circumference. He says that it had the appearance of five distinct trees; but that he was assured that the space was once filled with solid timber, and that there was no bark in the inside. This circumstance of an old trunk, hollow in the interior, becoming separated, so as to have the appearance of being the remains of several distinct trees, is frequently met with in the case of very old mulberry trees in Britain, and olive trees in Italy. Kircher, about a century before Brydone, affirms that an entire flock of sheep might be enclosed within the Etna chestnut as in a fold. The sweet chestnut was, in all probability, introduced into Britain in the time of the Romans, for the sake of its fruit; and, being a tree of great duration, and ripening its fruit, it could hardly fail to become a permanent inhabitant. The old chestnut tree at Tortworth
(fig. 1924., to a scale of 1 in. to 12 ft.) may, indeed, possibly have been one of those planted by the Romans. The oldest chestnut tree in the neighbourhood of London is that at Cobham, in Kent, of which fig. 1925. is a portrait, to a scale of 1 in. to 12 ft. Cambden mentions that Cowdray Park, in Sussex, was famous in his time for its chestnut trees; and the town of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, is supposed to have derived its name from the number of chestnut trees that formerly grew there. Old Tusser, in 1562, enumerates chestnuts, in his list of fruit trees which may be transplanted in January; and Lord Bacon mentions the chestnut in his Essay on Plantations. The tree, however, if once plentiful, appears soon to have become comparative scarcely; for the author of a tract entitled An old Thrift newly revived, published in 1612, recommends planting the chestnut as a "kind of timber tree of which few grow in England;" and which, he adds, will not only produce "large and excellent good timber," but "good fruit, that poore people, in time of dearth, may, with a small quantitie of oats or barley, make bread of." He also says that a chestnut tree, "when you begin first to plant it, will grow more in one yeare, than an oake will doe in two." (p. 7.) Mr. Samuel Hartlib,
who wrote some years afterwards, says, " In divers places of Kent, as in and about Gravesend, in the countrey, and elsewhere, very many prime timbers of their old barns and houses are of chestnut wood; and yet there is now scarce a chestnut tree within 20 miles of the place, and the people altogether ignorant of such trees. This sheweth that in former times those places did abound with such timber." (Legacy, &c., p. 18.) A proof how early the idea prevailed of the wood of Quercus sessiliflòra being that of the chestnut. In the year 1676, an ancestor of the family of Wyndham of Felbrigg, in Norfolk, was said to be a great planter of chestnuts; and some account of his trees will be found in a succeeding page. The tree, however, was comparatively neglected, till towards the latter end of the last century; when the Society of Arts, reviving the idea (which, as we have seen above, was current as long ago as the time of Henry VIII.), that the carpentry of many of our old buildings consisted of chestnut wood, offered rewards for planting the tree; and these were given to a number of individuals who made plantations of it. The tree is now chiefly planted as coppice-wood and for its fruit in England, and as an ornamental tree in Scotland and Ireland. In England, it is chiefly planted in hop countries, and on the margins of orchards, as a fruit tree. There are considerable plantations of it in Devonshire, from which large quantities of fruit are sent to the London market.
In France, as in Britain, it was formerly believed that the timber in the roofs of the oldest cathedrals, and in the Louvre and other buildings, was of chestnut; and it was thought, in consequence, that the tree had, in former times, been much more abundant in France than it now is in that country. Buffon, however, demonstrated that oak wood, after a great number of years, puts on the appearance of that of the chestnut; and, afterwards, Daubenton, as we have seen (p. 1787.), set the question at rest, by showing that what had been taken for chestnut was Q. sessiliflòra. At the same time, it is observed in the Dictionnaire des Eaux et Forêts, that chestnut trees must formerly have been much more common in France than at present; because orchards of them are often referred to under the name of châtaigneraies in ancient writings; and Acosta reports that the groves of chestnut trees in France were almost totally destroyed in 1709, by a very severe frost, which followed suddenly after heavy rains. In the Dictionnaire Universel (published at Lyons in 1791, art. Châtaignier), it is stated, from the records of the city of Orleans, that "the Forest of Orleans has been observed to change alternately the species of its timber; to have been for a space of time in oak, then in chestnut, and after
wards in oak again. In the woods of oak many young chestnut trees are found intermixed, which, being overpowered, make but small progress. When the former are felled, the latter, enjoying a freer current of air, grow vigorously, choke the young shoots of the oak, and assume their situations: the same has been remarked in other forests." (See Trans. Soc. Arts., xii. p. 113.) At present, the chestnut abounds in France, on the borders of the Rhine, in Dauphiné and the Vosges, Limousin, and a great many other places. It is common in the neighbourhood of Paris, especially as coppice-wood; but the fruit is small, and of little value. The chestnut is cultivated, in the south of Germany, chiefly as undergrowth, for fence-wood, hop-poles, and vine-props. In Spain, the chestnut tree is grown chiefly for its fruit; which is produced in such abundance, as to be not only a common food of the peasantry, but an article of exportation; the best chestnuts of the London markets being always from Spain; and hence, as before observed, the name of "Spanish chestnut." According to M'Culloch, " chestnuts from Spain and Italy are frequently kilndried, to prevent germination on their passage. During the three years ending in 1831, the entries of foreign chestnuts for home consumption averaged 20,948 bushels a year. The duty of 2s. per bushel produced, in 1832, a sum which proved that the consumption in that year must have amounted to 23,216 bushels."
Poetical Allusions. Virgil frequently mentions the chestnut in his Eclogues, for its fruit; and in his Georgics, as a tree. In the latter, he calls it the lofty chestnut: " Ut altæ castaneæ." In the first Eclogue he says,—
"Sunt nobis mitia poma,
Castaneæ molles, et pressi copia lactis."
"Ripe apples and soft chestnuts we have there,
And curd abundant to supply our fare."
In the second Eclogue, the chestnut is again mentioned, in a passage which is thus rendered by Dryden :
"Myself will search our planted grounds at home,
And thrash the chestnuts in the neighbouring grove,
And Martial says:
"Et, quas docta Neapolis creavit,
Lento castaneæ vapori tosta."
"For chestnuts, roasted by a gentle heat,
No city can the learned Naples beat."
Lib. v. epig. 79.
The old English poets frequently allude to the chestnut. Herrick says:—
"Remember us in cups full crown'd,
And let our city health go round;
Quite through the young maids and the men,
To the ninth number, if not ten;
Until the fired chestnuts leap
For joy to see the fruits ye reap
From the plump chalice and the cup,
That tempts till it be tossed up."
Ben Jonson speaks of the "chestnut whilk hath larded many a swine;" Shakspeare, in Macbeth, of a " sailor's wife with chestnuts on her lap;" and Milton alludes to the custom of roasting chestnuts :
"While hisses on my hearth the pulpy pear,
And black ning chestnuts start and crackle there."
In Catalonia, Philips tells us, a custom prevails of people going from house to house on All Saints' Eve, believing that by every chestnut that they eat in a different house they will free a soul from purgatory. (Pom. Brit., p. 96.)
Properties and Uses. In a wild state, the nut of the chestnut affords food to many animals, though its leaves and wood feed but few insects; nor does it support many parasitic or epiphytic plants. Subjected to man, notwithstanding its near alliance to the oak, it is, both in the Old and New World, more
useful as a fruit tree than for its timber. The wood of the chestnut, however, has the remarkable property of being more durable when it is young than when it is old; the sap or outer wood very soon changing into heart wood; and hence the great value of this tree for posts, fencing-poles, stakes, hoops, &c. The wood, when green, weighs 68 lb. 9 oz. per cubic foot; and when dry, 41 lb. 2 oz. According to some authors, however, it weighs, when dry, 48 lb. The wood is easily distinguished from that of the oak, by the transverse fibres being more confused, and much less evident to the naked eye, more especially in a section newly cut; so that, to ascertain whether a plank of timber is oak or chestnut, it is only necessary to saw off a thin slice at one of its extremities. Bosc agrees in this, and draws as a conclusion from it, that the annual layers of the wood not being freely united together by transverse fibres, must necessarily be liable to separate, and to become subject to the disease which is called, in France, cadranure (literally, dialling). This disease cannot be discovered till the tree is cut down; when it is found to be open at the heart, with rents radiating from its centre towards the circumference; in consequence of which the wood is unfit for being sawn into either planks or beams, and can only be employed for laths or fencing. Bosc found that of the trunks of 30 chestnut trees, about 1 ft. in diameter, which he had seen cut down and squared in the forest of Montmorency, there were 20 in the diseased state above described. Hence, he says, we seldom find any trunks of old chestnut trees, because this peculiarity in their organisation not only unfits them for every purpose of carpentry or joinery, but occasions them to decay from the centre outwards. To us it appears probable that this organisation, by lessening the communication of the juices of the tree in a horizontal direction, may also be the cause why the sap wood so soon becomes heart wood. Be that as it may, it is clear that all that has been said in favour of planting the chestnut for its timber can only rank, in point of authority, with what has been said respecting planting the locust for the same purpose. The French writers state that chestnut wood is a good deal used for making winecasks; a circumstance noticed by Rapin, in his poem entitled The Garden :
"With close-grain'd chestnut, wood of sov'reign use,
Wine is said to ferment in chestnut casks more slowly, and be less likely to evaporate: it also does not contract any unpleasant taste. There is scarcely any wood, according to Du Hamel, which makes better hoops, as these resist the dry rot in cellars where every other kind of wood decays. Du Hamel observes, at the same time, that chestnut wood decays speedily, when it is subjected alternately to dryness and moisture. (Exploit de Bois, p. 296.) Varennes de Fenille, on the other hand, states that, in La Bresse, posts of chestnut are preferred to those of every other wood for forming the supports of huts, notwithstanding these posts are subjected to the action of alternate humidity and dryness. The wood of the chestnut is not much approved of as fuel it throws out sparks, and smoulders in the fire rather than flames; though it gives out a great deal of heat. The charcoal, though good, is not of the first quality: it is inferior to that of the oak for domestic purposes, and for iron founderies; but, according to Bosc, and most other Continental writers, it is superior to that of oak, or any other wood, for forges; and it is much used for that purpose in Biscay and in Spain. In Switzerland, chestnut wood is equally valued for forges; but, the tree being rare there, the charcoal is very dear. (Hist. Nat. du Jorât, i. p. 9.) The same thing, Michaux informs us, is the case in North America. The ashes of the wood of the chestnut furnish a great deal of potash. The bark, especially of young trees, is used for tanning; but it only sells for half the price of that of oak. The leaves, in country places in France, are used as litter for cattle; and, when dried, they are employed, like those of the beech, by the poor, for stuffing mattresses. "But those leafy beds," Evelyn observes, "for the crackling noise they make when one turns upon them, the French call licts de parliament." (Hunt. Evel., i.