Landscapes of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in Britain - their ancient origins

Jarman, Rob ORCID: 0000-0002-3560-1266, Chambers, Frank M ORCID: 0000-0002-0998-2093 and Webb, Julia C ORCID: 0000-0002-1652-965X (2019) Landscapes of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in Britain - their ancient origins. Landscape History, 40 (2). pp. 5-40. doi:10.1080/01433768.2020.1676040

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Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa has been regarded as a Roman archaeophyte in Britain ever since a debate in the eighteenth century contested whether it was indigenous or introduced. This paper re-examines its status, presenting new evidence within an ‘historical ecology’ analytical framework. Sweet chestnut trees and coppice stools from 237 sites across England and Wales were assessed using genetic, dendrochronological, palaeoenvironmental, archaeological, and historical analyses. Seven types of ‘sweet chestnut landscape’ were identified: ancient inclosures/ groves; ancient coppice woods; historic boundaries; historic gardens; ancient deer parks and historic parklands; historic formal avenues; and more recent high forest and production coppice. Genetic analysis has indicated that the sources of the oldest British sweet chestnut trees and stools lie in parts of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy which were refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum. Tree and stool antiquity are verified for the first time through clonal analysis and dendrochronology. The earliest written record of sweet chestnut growing in Britain found in this study was a.d. 1113, referencing a boundary marker tree for Goldcliff Priory in southeast Wales. Later twelfth-century records evinced localised coppiced woods, nut production and ‘totemic’ plantings of individual trees in noble house and garden settings. By the eighteenth century sweet chestnut was extensively planted in designed parklands and avenues; and in woods, mostly as ‘industrial’ coppice. Present-day ‘landscapes of sweet chestnut’ are endowed with ancient trees, stubs and coppice stools of great significance for cultural and ecological interests.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa; Western Europe; historical ecology; Dendrochronology; Roman Britain; Indigenous species; Archaeophyte; Ancient trees
Subjects: S Agriculture > SD Forestry
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2019 16:14
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:58

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