Origin: Middle East, introduced into Cévennes by the Romans.
Species : Japanese and Chinese chestnuts.
Habitat : light or half shade. The young chestnuts prefer shade. It fears severe cold and does not appreciate the calcareous fields. It fits with poor, sour or sandy soils. It does well in Brittany or in the Massif central. It covers 1,5 % French forests (see the distribution map of the French forest).
Hardiness: zone 7 (it supports cold until -15 °).
Lifespan: 1000 years.
| Maximum size: 30 m.
Rate of Growth: fast.
Smooth bark cracked in long, dark brown (old tree). Straight trunk. Angular stems.
Deciduous foliage. Leaves alternate, long (20 cm), petiolate, coriaceous, big pointed teeth. In autumn, leaves pass by a pretty yellow, ephemeral, which turns fast to the brown. As with other Fagaceae (oak, beech), the chestnut tree leaves remain on the tree a part of the winter. They are marcescent.
The chestnut blooms in its 20th year.
Uses: in the past, the poor people harvested chestnuts to make a kind of (indigestible) bread. In Privas (Monts d'Ardèche), confectionery produced "frozen horse chestnuts", in the XVIIIth century. The wood is waterproof and elastic. It is used to make poles, stakes including vineyards, floors, tubs, but also particle board, pulp and paper, basketry, castanets, furniture and paneling.
It is also an excellent timber. Its scent repels flies. Thus, spiders do not spin their webs!
It is also used for firewood because of its rapid growth and its ability to stump (it grows in clumps).
The bark is rich in tanning extracts.
Medicinal Properties: plant astringent, febrifuge and haemostatic (bark and wood tannins), diarrhea (catkins dried).