Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Spiny Chestnut

Unbeknownst to myself until recently I had no idea that when chestnuts fall to the ground they are intensely armored by a needle-like spiked hull. At first glance it gives off the appearance of a giant cocklbur. I picked one up with the utmost care and still its keen points stuck into my flesh. If it wasn't for the fact that the nuts literally burst from this spiny armor I doubt anything would even attempt at getting at it. Not even the clever and persistent squirrel. The use of chestnuts as a food source dates way back including its use by American Indians as a dietary staple. Not only is its fruit useful but also its wood for houses, barns, railroad ties. Tannin from the nuts was used to tan leather. Unfortunately the American chestnut was pretty much wiped out by a fungal disease known as chestnut blight destroying billions of trees. The Chinese chestnut which is resistant to blight, was introduced in order to try and take the place of this once magnificent tree. There’s also work being done to cross breed the American and Chinese trees to produce one that has the stature of the American and the blight resistance of the Chinese.


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