56. European Chestnut

(Castanea sativa)

Other Common Names: Sweet Chestnut, Marron,

Family: Fagaceae

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Near a group of fire hydrants north of Bagley Hall is a European Chestnut tree. Its trunk is about one and a half feet (one half meter) thick. Recall the Skagit Lane Horse Chestnuts, and note the difference in leaves, flowers and nuts. Each leaf is prominently ribbed with straight veins ending in pointy teeth. The bark has a net-shaped pattern with deep furrows running in a spiral pattern in both directions around the trunk. The flowers are narrow spikes, pungent and creamy-white in late June or July. Needles completely cover the nut husks. Most of the nuts are small and empty; good ones are plump and similar to those in stores. Roasted the nuts are a delicacy used as a flavoring, a flour, or a sweetener.

Native to southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, these trees can live up to a thousand years. An infusion of leaves and fruit husks can produce a shampoo rumored to give hair a golden gleam. The wood is light colored, hard, and strong. It is rot resistant and used to make posts, fencing, barrels, and roof beams. Ground into meal the seeds can be used as a wash to whiten linens.

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