Aesculus hippocastenum (Horse Chestnut)
Other Names: Buck-eye, Conker Tree, Spanish Chestnut
Description: A large deciduous tree largely planted in parks and open spaces, churchyards and often seen as a street tree. Less often seen in woodlands where it can shade out the woodland floor. Distinctive leaves in clusters or “Hands” of 5-8 separate leaves. Large white/pink “Candle” flowers seen in May to June in great numbers. Fruits have tough, green, fleshy, spikey shells hiding a large shiny nut or Conker in autumn. Buds are large and very sticky all winter before leaves emerge early in spring.
Uses: The wood of the Horse Chestnut is pale milky white to light brown and relatively soft, making it ideal for carving but of little use commercially. As well as being used in the game we all know and love, conkers have been used at horse medicines and in shampoos.
Conservation Value: The large flowers provide a strong source of nectar for insects, specially bees. The caterpillars of both the Triangle and Leaf Minor moths feed on the leaves and so provide food for birds. Mammals, including deer, feed on the conkers.
Preferred Locations: Very tolerant tree which can cope with almost any soil type including chalk, sand, clay, acidic or alkaline. They do however they do prefer moist but well drained and fertile soils. Ideally, Horse Chestnuts prefer full sun locations.
Size: Can reach heights of up to 40m and have a large canopy of 8 - 10m.
Time to reach full height: 40 years
Lifespan: Up to 300 years