Thursday, May 24, 2018

Horse Chestnut Part 2 #ThursdayTreeLove

In upstate New York, we have a beautiful tree called the horse chestnut.  It is in bloom now, and I posted a picture of some of their flowers yesterday for Wordless Wednesday.

A couple of my readers wanted more information so here you are.

First, a picture to give you some scale.  The horse chestnut in bloom is on the right.

And a closeup of a flower (from 2015).

Unlike some spring trees, the horse chestnuts don't flower until their leaves are grown out.  Flowers can be either whitish or pink.  This is one of the white varieties.

In the fall, the tree produces inedible nuts that children love to play games with.  One game, in particular, conkers, stretches back hundreds of years.  There's an entire tradition in Great Britain built around preparing and playing with your horse chestnut nut (conker).  My spouse played a variation of this game growing up near New York City.

What a lot of history rolled into one majestic tree.

But, 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 the fish.

A couple of my readers wanted to know why they were called "horse chestnuts".

The nuts are edible for horses (and deer); perhaps that is why. 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.

Perhaps the cell phone-addicted children of today will grow up, and appreciate the majestic splendor of this tree.   But enjoy them fast.

In a day or two, these flowers will be gone for another year.

Do you have horse chestnuts where you live?

Join Parul Thakur and other bloggers who love trees for #ThursdayTreeLove.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing such detailed info about Horse Chestnuts! The flowers look so pretty! This species does not grow in my area but I have seen it in northern parts of India, in the hills. Now let me get back to reading all those informative links you have added! :-)

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  2. There is a large one out on the main road of my sub in front of an old farmhouse. It is the only one I can think of in this area. I'll have to check it for blooms today.

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  3. I think our buckeyes are a different species in the same genus. Flowers, leaves, and nuts are very similar. Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, but the trees grow in Virginia and Kentucky too. In Virginia they've already bloomed.

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  4. Ah, okay, I had wondered where the name came from. I don't think they have them around here, but I could be wrong.

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  5. Not sure if what type of chestnut tree grows here. Usual around the holiday they will chestnut in the markets.
    Coffee is on

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  6. Love all the details you shared. Those little flowers and the tree are beautiful. Thank you for joining, Alana and being a regular contributor.

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  7. I am enjoying reading so much information about this tree, have heard this trees name but have not seen. Thank you for enhancing my knowledge.

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