The chestnut (Castanea spp.) is a fruit tree belonging to the Fagaceae family, which Include several varieties.
The main species are the European chestnut (Castanea spp.), the Japanese (Castanea crenata.) and that of the United States of America (Castanea dentata), suppliers of wood for various uses.
The chestnut tree is one of the few plants that, with its fruit, has fed entire generations of poor people and farmers: in the past the plant of the chestnut was in fact one true wealth and whoever owned a chestnut wood was considered a lucky person, as well as rich.
A terrible desease
At the beginning of the 40s of the last century, a terrible disease decimated millions of chestnut trees everywhere: chestnut cancer was one of the most destructive diseases that has ever affected a forest fruit and wood tree species. In America alone, it is estimated that over three billion American chestnut trees were destroyed, spread over an area of forty million hectares.
A bit of history
The origins of the chestnut tree are very ancient and date from well before the appearance of man; fossil records show that in the Cenozoic Era, over 60 million years ago, when the distribution of broad-leaved trees began on Earth, the ancestors of today’s chestnut trees were present in the Mediterranean area.
Over time, primitive men learned to preserve chestnuts and to use the wood of the chestnut tree, which is resistant to water, for stilts and to build pirogues. The first cultivation centre and spread of the chestnut was identified in the Caucasus towards the ninth century BC.
During the rise of the Roman Empire and the conquest of new territories, the cultivation of the chestnut tree extended to all of Central and Southern Europe.
The chestnut is among the plants that strongly characterise the landscape and culture of the Mediterranean European regions, together with the olive tree and the vine.
The chestnut tree is a very long-lived plant, which can reach imposing dimensions: up to 25 – 30 meters in height, with a trunk diameter that, in particular and ancient specimens, exceeds eight meters.
The wood is rich in tannin, an extractive once used in the tanning industry for the production of leather. The heartwood is light brownish in colour tending to brown, with differentiated sapwood.
The specific weight on average for the three species is between 450 and 700 kg per cubic meter, with wood moisture equal to 12%; it lends itself to being worked on average well in carpentry, excluding bending. Although today the economic importance of this species is marginal, its wood continues to be widely used for numerous uses: furnishings, flooring, barrels, outdoor artifacts, poles, heavy and light carpentry, stairs, objects.