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Any of four species of deciduous ornamental and timber trees of the genus Castanea, in the beech family. Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, they bear burrlike fruits that contain two or three edible nuts. The usually tall trees have furrowed bark and lance-shaped leaves. The American chestnut (C. dentata), which once extended over a large area of eastern North America, has been almost eliminated by chestnut blight. The other three species are the European chestnut (C. sativa), the Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), and the Japanese chestnut (C. crenata). The nuts of these three have local importance as food and are exported in large quantities, and varieties of all three are cultivated as ornamentals. The European chestnut produces useful timber as well; the American chestnut also was an important source of lumber and nuts before the arrival of the blight.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on chestnut, visit Britannica.com.