Tree of the Week – Part 2: The Horse Chestnut
Horse Chestnut – Aesculus hippocastanum
Number 2 in our Tree of the Week blog is the gorgeous Horse Chestnut – most of you will know it as the Conker tree, but there’s more to this beauty than playing games with its big, shiny seeds!
This is a non-native tree which was introduced from mainland Greece and Bulgaria in the 17th century. In its home environment, Horse Chestnuts grow on rocky cliff faces yet it was grown in parklands and large gardens as an individual ‘statement’ tree because of its large, graceful canopy. Unfortunately, it is now threatened and considered to be Endangered in its native range of the Central Balkan peninsula.
Tree of the Week Facts, figures and legends!
- Easily recognisable thanks to its huge, palmate (or hand-shaped) leaves and those glorious conkers at the end of summer. However, it’s also easy to identify in the winter – it has some of the biggest, stickiest reddish-brown buds.
- The latin name Aesculus comes form the Roman name for edible acorns?! The ‘hippo’ part of hippocastanum refers to horses and this could be for a number of reasons. The Turks used conkers to treat bruises on their horses and the leaf scar (left behind when a leaf’s stem breaks away from a branch) looks like a horse-shoe with nail holes.
- The largest Horse Chestnut in the UK can be found on the National Trust’s Hughendon estate, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. It measures 7.33m (24ft) around its girth and is believed to be over 300 years old!
- The largest conker championship consisted of 395 participants in an event organized by the Hampstead Heath Education Centre (UK) in London, UK, on 9 October 2011. The conker championship is held every year as a way to engage Londoners with their environment. (Source: Guinness Book of Records 2017)
Personal favourites/recommendations/wish list trees:
- A trip to see the Veteran Tree at Hughenden is on the wishlist!
You can find out loads more about Horse Chestnut trees on websites such as: