15. AMERICAN CHESTNUT
Castanea dentata (Marshall) Borkhausen
American chestnut, once common across the state south of the Adirondacks, has succumbed to the deadly chestnut blight, so that there are practically no live trees over 4 inches in diameter. Perhaps almost any other species could have been better spared in the farmer's woodlot because of its rapid growth, the many uses of wood, and the fine crop of nuts it furnished. The wood is light, soft, coarse-grained, reddish brown in color, and durable in contact with the soil. It is now used largely for posts.
|Bark - on young
trunks smooth, reddish brown in color, with age broken by shallow fissures into long,
broad flat, more or less slanting ridges.
Twigs - stout, greenish yellow or reddish brown in color, somewhat swollen at base of buds; pith star-shaped in cross section.
Winter buds - small ovate, light chestnut brown in color, set at an angle to the leaf scar; terminal bud absent.
Leaves - simple, lanceolate, alternate, 6 to 8 inches long, sharp-pointed, widely toothed.
Fruit - a light brown burr, sharp, spiny without and hairy within; opening at the first frost and letting fall generally 3 nuts. Nuts - shiny, woolly at the top; shell very thin; kernel solid, white, sweet, and makes excellent eating.
Distinguishing features - stout twigs, with star-shaped pith; long leaves with widely-spaced, sharp teeth.