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A deciduous tree up to 60 ft high, with a trunk 6 ft in girth; young shoots furnished (often thinly) with comparatively long hairs or with short velvety down. Leaves oblong to oval, mostly rounded or heart-shaped at the base, tapered at the apex to a short slender point, the margins set with triangular or btistle-like teeth; 5 to 8 in. long, 2 to 31⁄2 in. wide. The leaves vary much in regard to downiness, and according to Wilson there may be found on the same tree some nearly or quite glabrous, and others clothed beneath with a whitish felt; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, usually hairy. Male catkins 4 to 5 in. long. Nuts variable in size, in some forms being as large as the best class of Spanish chestnut. There are usually two or three in one husk, which is 2 in. wide and covered with straw-coloured spines and clothed with soft down.
Native of China, of which country it is the common chestnut, occurring as it does, wild or cultivated, from Peking to the far west. It is undoubtedly a native of Szechwan, where it is very common and whence Wilson introduced it to the Arnold Arboretum in 1908. Plants under his number 1141 are growing at Kew, and are quite hardy although slow and bushy in growth. The largest is now 28 ft high (1966). It had previously been introduced from Peking by Sargent in 1903. The earlier botanists confused it with C. sativa, the European chestnut, but it can usually be distinguished by the down and hairs on the young shoots. Its leaf-stalks in general are also shorter, being, even on large leaves, sometimes only 1⁄4 in. long. The tree is valued in China for its edible nuts and as a source of fuel, which is obtained by a system of coppicing.
The two trees at Kew measured in 1968 are both dead, and no other examples have been recorded.