CASTA'NEA, a genus of plants belonging to the natural order Corylacea, one of the species is the Sweet Chestnut. From the similarity in their name one would be disposed to believe that the genus to which Horse-Chestnuts belong was nearly related to this ; they are however extremely different in everything except the un important circumstances of the fruit of both being prickly ; and even in regard to this, their resemblance is more apparent than real, for the prickly part of the fruit of Castanea is an involuere, while that of the Horse-Chestnut is a pericarp ; and the so-called seeds of Castanea are seed-vessels, while the parts which in the Horse-Chestnut correspond with these are really seeds. [tEscutus.] C. vesea (C. vulgaris, Lam.), the Sweet Chestnut, or Spanish Chestnut, is a deciduous tree of considerable size, with long shining serrated sharp-pointed leaves, clusters of long spikes of pale greenish.
yellow unisexual minute flowers, having no corolla, and fruits con ' slating of a roundish prickly husk or involucre, technically called a copula, and analogous to the cup of the acorn or the beard of the filbert, in which are contained one or more dark-brown ovate sharp pointed nuts, each of which conceals a large single seed, and is tipped by the remains of several rigid styles. The seeds contain a largo quantity of nutritive starchy matter, of a sweet flavour, on which account Chestnuts are extensively used as food In the countries where the tree abounds. In all Spain, the southern parts of France, Italy, and the adjacent countries, Sweet Chestnuts, either raw, or roasted, or ground into flour, or prepared in some other way, form a common article of diet. It is however not the wild Casfanea which furnishes the nuts that are principally consumed in the south of Europe, and exclusively exported to more northern countries, but a number of cultivated varieties, the nuts of which are larger, and the seeds sweeter ; of these the moat remarkable are the Corive, the Oaniaude, the Egalade, and the Marron Coruu of the south of France. The Sweet Chestnut is a native of all the southern parts of Europe, extending eastward to the Caucasus, beyond which it hardly passes in Asia. In North America it occurs wild in great abundance in the Lilly and mountainous parts of Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, as well as other districts, not however reaching beyond New Hampshire to the north. Michaux distinguishes the American from the European Chestnut as a peculiar species, but hardly upon sufficient grounds. It is always included as a wild plant in our English Floras, but upon no sort of authority. It is said indeed that its timber forms a considerable part of our oldest buildings, and that it has been ascertained to be the material out of which were -constructed the ancient piles that have from time to time been taken from the Thames, the roof of Westminster Abbey, the church of St. Nicholas at Great
Yarmouth, erected in the reign of William Rufus, and the timbers of other places; but these statements have arisen from the singular mistake of confounding the timber of Quercus oestiliflora with that of Cattanea vacs; it is to the fernier that are to be referred all the supposed cases of ancient chestnut wood found in English buildings. [Qui:netts.] The Sweet Chestnut in its wild state acquires an unusual size. On "Etna, where it constitutes forests, there are trees of great antiquity, one of which, called the Hundred-Horse Chestnut, from its being able to contain a hundred mounted men in its hollow, has or had a circumference of above 160 feet ; and in the department of the near Sancerre, there is still standing a tree of this species, which at 6 feet from the ground measures more than 30 feet in circum ference, and is to all appearance still sound. It is stated that 600 years ago this was called the Great Chestnut-Tree, and its actual age is computed at 1000 years. The wood of the chestnut is well suited for paling or piles, as it resists well the lufluence of water ; it is also used for mill-timber and for water-works, but it is not in this country of much importance.
Several varieties are cultivated in this country, among which are a shining-leaved, a variegated, and a cut-leaved sort; they are multiplied by grafting on the common Sweet Chestnut.
C. pumila, the Chinquapin-Nut, is a shrub rather than a tree, with leaves hoary on the underside, and small sweet nuts. It is a native of the United States of North America, especially in damp mountainous situations on a gravelly soil.
There are other species in India and on the west coast of North America.
CASTANOSPE'ILMU3t, a genus of plants belonging to the natural order Legurninoste. The only known species of this genus is described as forming a tree from 30 to 40 feet high in the forests near Moreton Bay in Australia. It has unequally-pmnated leaves, with elliptical ovate acuminate entire smooth leaflets. The flowers are papiliona ceous, and bright saffron-yellow. The pods are large, solitary, and Pendulous, produced by the two-years'-old wood, obtuse, rather inflated, and containing from 3 to 5 large chestnut-like seeds. The shade afforded by the foliage Is said to excel that of meet Australian trees. By the natives the seeds are eaten on all occasions : they have when roasted the flavour of a Spanish chestnut, and travellers assert that Europeans who have subsisted upon them have experienced no other unpleasant effect than a slight pain in the bowels, and that only when the seeds are eaten raw. They are however hard, astringent, and not at all better than acorns. (Hooker, Botanical Miscellany.)