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Classification, origin and diffusion
Chestnut is a plant native to southern Europe, North Africa and western Asia. Fruit chestnut trees are now considerably reduced in Italy, although in recent years there has been an attempt to recover not only for production purposes.
Inflorescences and fruits Chestnut
Chestnut fruits (photo Lorenzo Nozzi)
Chestnut (photo Lorenzo Nozzi)
Size and bearing
Plant with conical-pyramidal crown in young specimens, with a tendency to become expanded, globular and irregular in adult specimens. Up to 25 meters high.
Trunk and bark
Straight stem, medium-high branched. The rind is brownish with grayish shades in the adult specimens, hazel-gray in the young ones.
Deciduous plant with serrated edge and pointed apex. The leaves are intense green and shiny, lighter in the lower part.
Monoecious plant. The male inflorescences are represented by 10-20 cm long spikes of greenish-yellow color. The female ones are made up of single flowers or gathered in groups of 2-3 places at the base of the male inflorescences. Flowering occurs in the height of summer. The fruit is represented by a nut called chestnut, entirely covered by a thorny dome, called hedgehog.
The oldest use of chestnut is food. Chestnuts are rich in starch and in many mountain areas of Italy they represented, until the 1950s, the main food source (chestnut flour). Semi-hard wood is mainly used in the manufacture of furniture and support poles.
Chestnut woods are divided into two main categories based on the product obtained from the forest.
- Palina di castagno, is a coppice with a shift that can vary from 20 to 30 years, suitable for the production of very varied assortments, from braiding twigs to poles to support telephone cables. Most of the forests of this type derive from old fruit chestnut trees converted after the abandonment of mountain areas. It is rarer to find chestnut coppices deriving from specific plants. The woods with the greatest production are located in areas with volcanic soils, for example Monte Amiata and Sardinia which at the end of the shift can reach 13 - 20 m in height and 300 cubic meters of wood mass.
-Castagneto da fruit, specialized plant that for centuries has guaranteed the mountain populations sustenance. Widely spread as a replacement for other species from the Middle Ages to the early 1900s, when the decline began mainly due to the abandonment of the mountain. The area occupied by chestnut trees has gone from 500 thousand hectares to just over 80 thousand.
The planting of a fruit chestnut grove should be done with about 200 - 300 plants per hectare, which will decrease to 100 - 150 at the end of the shift. This reduction is also due to the grafting (split or crown) that is carried out to propagate the fruit cultivars.
Wood woods are also important, grafted cultivars such as fruit are bred for the production of timber suitable for the production of furniture and other artifacts.