The Garden Guide

Book: A treatise on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, adapted to North America,1841
Chapter: Section IV. Deciduous Ornamental Trees

Soil conditions for Sweet Chestnut

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The finest natural situations for this tree appear to be the mountainous slopes of mild climates, where it attains the greatest possible perfection. Michaux informs us, that the most superb and lofty chestnuts in America are to be found in such situations, in the forests of the Carolinas. Abroad, every one will call to mind the far-famed chestnuts of Mount Etna, of wonderful age and extraordinary size. The great chestnut there, has excited the surprise of numerous travellers; at present, however, it appears to be scarcely more than a mere shell, the wreck of former greatness. When visited by M. Houel (Arboretum Brit.), it was in a state of decay, having lost the greater part of its branches, and its trunk was quite hollow. A house was erected in the interior, and some country people resided in it, with an oven, in which, according to the custom of the country, they dried chestnuts, filberts, and other fruits, which they wished to preserve for winter use; using as fuel, when they could find no other, pieces cut with a hatchet from the interior of the tree. In Brydone's time, in 1770, this tree measured two hundred and four feet in circumference. He says it had the appearance of five distinct trees; but he was assured that the space was once filled with solid timber, and there was no bark on the inside. This circumstance of an old trunk, hollow in the interior, becoming separated so as to have the appearance of being the remains of several distinct trees, is frequently met with in the case of very old mulberry trees in Great Britain, and olive trees in Italy. Kircher, about a century before Brydone, affirms that an entire flock of sheep might be inclosed within the Etna chestnut, as in a fold.* (Arboretum Brit. p. 1988.) (* One of the most celebrated Chestnut trees on record, is that called the Tortworth Chestnut, in England. In 1772, Lord Ducie, the owner, had a portrait of it taken, which was accompanied by the following description: " The east view of the ancient Chestnut tree at Tortworth, in the county of Gloucester, which measures nineteen yards in circumference, and is mentioned by Sir Robert Aikins in his history of that county, as a famous tree in King John's reign: and by Mr. Evelyn in his Sylva, to have been so remarkable in the reign of King Stephen, 1135, as then to be called the great Chestnut of Tortworth; from which it may reasonably be presumed to have been standing before the Conquest, 1066." This tree is still standing.)