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Tree Horse Chestnut Trees

Horse Chestnut Tree - Photo  Copyright 2000 Gary Bradley Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
Need help identifying trees? Try the colourful fold out chart called "Tree Name Trail" from the Nature Shop - click here

Latin name: Aesculus Hippocastanum

Size: Can reach a height of around 30m, and the spread of its branches can be almost as wide.

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Flowering months: May to June

Special features: The horse chestnut tree, which originated in the Balkans, was introduced to Britain in the 1600's as an ornamental tree. It grows so successfully here that it is hard to believe it is not native to the U.K.

The horse chestnut is one of the first trees in leaf, and looks its best in springtime, when it is covered with clusters of either pink or white flowers, known as 'candles'. These flowers are normally pollinated by the early flying bumble bees. The leaves are made up of 5 to 7 leaflets.

Shortly after pollination the seeds of the tree appear encased in a prickly green shell which is about the size of a marble.

A conkerThey slowly grow to the size of a golf ball and then in September the prickly casing splits open to release the shiny brown seed, known as a 'conker'.

The Game of Conqueror
The game is played by two people, each equipped with a conker threaded onto the end of a piece of string or an old boot lace. The players take turns at whacking their opponents conker with their own conker, with the aim of smashing their opponents conker to pieces. The winner is the player whose conker is still attached to the string.

All sorts of tricks are employed in the hope of strengthening a conker, such as baking it in an oven or polishing it with special waxes. A good strong conker can survive several games, and a record is kept of the number of other conkers it smashes. After it wins one fight it is known as a one-er! After winning two fights it becomes a two-er, and so on.

Track Down More Info

How the Horse Chestnut Got its Name
Fatal Attraction (Sticky Buds)
UK Safari Tree Section

  2008 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved