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Leaves of the American Chestnut are alternate, simple, 5 to 8 inches long with coarse, sharply pointed teeth along the edges. Fall color is composed of shades of yellow, gold and brown. Their fruit form very sharp, prickly burrs 2 to 2.5 inches long, each containing 2 or 3 shiny, round, brown sweet nuts 1/2 to 1 inch long. Its bark is light gray, with broad, flat ridges and fissures that often form a spiral around the trunk.
The American Chestnut is valued for its fruit and lumber. Chestnuts are referred to as the "bread tree" because their nuts are so high in starch that they can be milled into flour; they can also be roasted, boiled, dried or candied. The nuts were a major food source for humans, livestock and a wide variety of wildlife; its wood was harvested for the production of furniture, musical instruments, caskets, crates and tannin - more than half of the tannin used by the American leather industry once came from the American Chestnut. They were also an important cash crop for families in the northeast states and southern Appalachians up until the twentieth century.