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There is historical precedent for the fears: At the turn of the 20th century a fungus caused a mass extinction of the American chestnut tree in the eastern United States.

Europe’s chestnuts came first from the Balkans and were introduced in western Europe about 500 years ago. It is a hallmark of cities rather than forests and, especially during the Victorian era, became a favorite for stately lanes, parks and squares.

In Ghent, Belgium, last month, a huge chestnut suddenly collapsed along the upper Scheldt river, smashing a car along a road usually busy with cycling students. As in many places, city councils have been increasingly checking the health of chestnuts and, if there’s any doubt, cut them down as a safety precaution.

The chestnuts are all gone this summer from the city’s Groentenmarkt medieval center, depriving weary tourists of reprieve from the sun.

The chestnuts, or marroniers, in Paris are also part of the attraction at Pere Lachaise. But last year, visitors could walk ankle deep through rusty leaves in the middle of July.

`’It’s a problem all over Paris,” said cemetery conservator Martine Lecuyer, although she said heavy rainfall made this year a little better.

In Amsterdam, officials are scrambling to try to save chestnuts within the famed canal belt. For Anne Frank’s tree, help came too late. The 150-year-old tree, affected by the moth and fungi, weakened progressively and crashed to the ground two years ago.

If the darkest predictions prove true, many Britons will mourn chestnut trees as the passing of part of their youth: The game of “conkers,” in which children take turns trying to smash chestnuts, was once a popular pastime on playgrounds across the country.

Just as bad for chestnuts is the way people deal with the problem: On Ghent’s Groentenmarkt, the new trees are now linden, and the example is followed in many parts of Europe.

`’Many local authorities are then no longer planting horse chestnut trees because they fear _ what is the point in planting something that is going to be susceptible to attack,” Evans said.

`’Essentially, we could lose an entire new generation of horse chestnut trees.”