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The European chestnut (Castanea sativa Miller) is a broadleaf of high economic importance for the production of its fruit and the quality of its wood. It has a Mediterranean distribution extending from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea, being considered as indigenous in the Iberian Peninsula. It can be found in the environment in several ways: domesticated in grafted forests of varieties with good quality of chestnut (fruit) or good combined characteristics of chestnut (fruit) and wood; in the scrub destined to the production of sticks or small timber; and finally, as a wild species mostly at higher mountain areas, where it is usually present along with other broadleaf, rarely being the dominant species.




In Europe, it covers important areas in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey. In this natural range, rainfall is above 600 mm per year, and in warmer climates, the species prefers North orientation. It is resistant to cold in winter but sensitive to spring frosts, defending himself by budding late; it lives in acid and light soils with high organic matter.



It has a discontinuous distribution in Spain, mainly extending all over the North, with an Atlantic between Galicia and Navarra, which represents the 70% of its total area. It isappears in the Pyrenean region and re-appear in the Catalan mountain. It extends southwards by the center-western regions with important nucleus in the region of Bierzo, Ávila, Salamanca and Extemadura. It also appears in certain nucleus of Andalucía as ‘Sierra de Aracena’, ‘Sierra Nevada’ and ‘Serrania de Ronda’. There are small masses in the western Canary Islands. About the forms of cultivation, it can be said in general terms that in the north, the grafted forests are present in the center and in the interior of Galicia; the scrub predominates in Asturias; and all over the surface at higher mountain areas thanks to the resurgence and colonization ability of the species. In the central-western, it alternates scrub with chestnuts, and in the South predominate grafted chestnuts.

Studies on genetic resources of chestnut in the ‘Centro de Lourizán’ began with the characterization and selection of Euro-Asian hybrids and traditional varieties of chestnut grown in Galicia. Later, we began recollections of individuals and populations of C. sativa aimed to study the variability of the species in its range of western distribution, and selecting germplasm of European chestnut to include in the program of chestnut improvement for wood and rootstocks. At the present, activities are focused on creating a Main Population of Improvement in the long-term, in identifying individuals with good features for the production of wood and rootstocks, and in conservation and characterization of traditional chestnut varieties.