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Horse-chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

 

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Horse-chestnut, flowers and leaves
credit: Ala z (Alina Zienowicz)/CCSA

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Family: Hippocastanaceae, Horse-chestnut view all from this family



Description Aesculus hippocastanum is a large deciduous tree, commonly known as Horse-chestnut or Conker tree. It is native to a small area in the mountains of the Balkans in southeast Europe, in small areas in northern Greece, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria (Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Balkan mixed forests). It is widely cultivated throughout the temperate world.

It grows to 36 m tall, with a domed crown of stout branches, on old trees the outer branches often pendulous with curled-up tips. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound, with 5–7 leaflets; each leaflet is 13–30 cm long, making the whole leaf up to 60 cm across, with a 7–20 cm petiole. The leaf scars left on twigs after the leaves have fallen have a distinctive horseshoe shape, complete with seven "nails". The flowers are usually white with a small red spot; they are produced in spring in erect panicles 10–30 cm tall with about 20–50 flowers on each panicle. Usually only 1–5 fruits develop on each panicle; the shell is a green, softly spiky capsule containing one (rarely two or three) nut-like seeds called conkers or horse-chestnuts. Each conker is 2–4 cm diameter, glossy nut-brown with a whitish scar at the base.


Warning Seeds can be toxic and in some cases fatal to humans and animals. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.


Habitat Cities, suburbs & towns, Fields.


Range Northwest, Great Lakes, New England, Plains, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast.


 

 

 

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