Sunday, May 29, 2016

No Horsing Around with These Trees

At the end of May, the majestic horse chestnuts bloom in the Binghamton, New York area of upstate New York.  This year, they are breath taking.
This tree towers over a two story house
These tall trees feature large, conical shaped, fragrant flowers.
Here is a closeup of the flowers.  These are white; there is also a pink variety grown here, and a yellow variety, which I have never seen.
And another picture.

What are horse chestnuts, exactly?

They are not native to our country, but rather, to the Balkins.  They were introduced into Great Britain in the 1600's.

One thing they are not is edible - in fact, the entire plant, including its chestnuts (in Europe, they are called "conkers") are mildly poisonous.  

Native Americans would make a mash of the nuts and use it to stun fish. They would then have to get rid of the toxins in the fish but it was an effective way to kill fish.

The nuts are edible for horses (and deer); perhaps why they are called "horse chestnuts". Their scientific name is Aesculus (with about 15 species - I don't know which one I took a picture of but I suspect it is hippocastanum).  The trees have an interesting history.

As for conkers, my spouse, growing up near New York City, would play that game.  It was a favorite game at one time in Great Britain.  Now, alas, children entertain themselves in other ways.

But maybe the cell phone-addicted children of today will grow up, and appreciate the majestic splendor of this tree.  I was surprised to learn that the population of these trees, at least in Great Britain, is declining.

And in another couple of days, in our hot weather, these flowers will be gone for another year.

Do you have horse chestnuts where you live?


  1. “Do you have horse chestnuts where you live?”

    Yes, they grow as street trees here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. So many plants from Japan—and other places—grow well here, that I wonder if horse chestnuts grow there. When I moved here from Mississippi in 1986, I was surprised to find that even Southern Magnolias grow here.

  2. I have no idea. I doubt it.

  3. In the first photo, it looks like a splendid tree. I can imagine myself waking up early in the morning to the view of this flower laden tree outside my balcony. To read about the history of this tree was interesting.

  4. That is quite sad. I hope people realize the decline and get it going again.


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