Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chinese Chestnut

The Chinese Chestnut , a member of the family Fagaceae, is a species of chestnut native to China, in the provinces of Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan, and Zhejiang, and also to Taiwan and Korea. It grows close to sea level in the north of its range, and at altitudes of up to 2,800 m in the south of the range. The species prefers full sun and acidic, loamy soil, and has a medium growth rate.

It is a deciduous tree growing to 20 m tall with a broad crown. The are alternate, simple, 10-22 cm long and 4.5-8 cm broad, with a toothed margin. The flowers are produced in catkins 4-20 cm long, with the female flowers at the base of the catkin and males on the rest. The fruit is a densely spiny cupule 4-8 cm diameter, containing two or three glossy brown s; these are 2-3 cm diameter on wild trees. The scientific name ''mollissima'' derives from the softly downy shoots and young leaves.. Some cultivars, such as 'Kuling', 'Meiling', and 'Nanking', have large nuts up to 4 cm diameter. The nuts are sweet, and considered by some to have the best taste of any chestnut, though others state they are not as good as the American Chestnut. The nuts also provide a significant food source for wildlife.

When cultivated in close proximity to other species of chestnut , Chinese Chestnut readily cross-pollinates with them to form .

Chinese Chestnuts have evolved over a long period of time in coexistence with the bark disease chestnut blight , and have evolved a very successful resistance to the blight, probably more so than any other species of chestnut, so that, although it is not immune, it typically sustains no more than minor damage when infected. This is in stark contrast to the American Chestnut, which had no resistance to the blight, and was nearly wiped out by it after its introduction from Asia to North America. An active program has been pursued in North America to cross-breed Chinese and American Chestnut to try to maximize the traits of the American Chestnut, such as larger stature, larger leaf size, larger nut size, and greater nut sweetness, while also isolating and carrying the blight resistance from the Chinese Chestnut.

References and external links

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