Plant Focus: Horse Chestnut

image: Rosie Hopkins

The Horse Chestnut is probably most known to us by providing bairns of all ages with ‘conkers’, the hard nut of the tree.

This tree is not native to the British Isles but it is one we have come to particularly associate with Autumn. The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can live to up to 300 years old.

Its flowers appear in May , or thereabouts.

The Horse Chestnut was introduced to the British Isles in the late 16th C from Turkey.

The Victorians wrote recipes for making conker flour. The seeds were shelled, ground and then leached to remove bitter flavours. It’s not a common practise these days and if consumed in excessive quantities conkers are mildly poisonous.

Woodland Trust

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  1. It’s a devil of a job trying to grow them in Orkney. We have one which is in a relatively sheltered position, is about 12 years old, and about 3 feet tall. Another – same age, in a less sheltered position, about a foot tall. They live, and are healthy – they just grow wondrous slow!

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