Horse Chestnut Tree – Aesculus Hippocastanum

The Horse Chestnut tree belongs to the genus Aesculus and is a deciduous broadleaf tree native to the Balkan Peninsula and was introduced into Britain in the 1600s.


Horse Chestnut Tree General Information

The nuts of the tree are famous for the children’s game conkers and this tree is often called a conker tree.

Very popular in parks, gardens and streets for its high amenity value, these beautiful trees are now under serious threat from several diseases.

A healthy tree can live for over 300 years.


Description of a Horse Chestnut Tree

The Horse Chestnut is a large deciduous tree which can grow up to 118 feet tall, with a perfectly domed crown of stout branches.

Bark is smooth and grey on a young tree becoming darker with age and developing scaly plates giving it a rugged look.

Leaves are palmate, large and radiate in a circle, turning red/brown early in the autumn.

Twigs curve upwards and buds are shiny and sticky in spring which protect them from frost.

White flowers with a pink tinge grow upwards in cone shaped panicles and appear in April and May creating a spectacular sight and making the tree appear as if covered in white candles.

Flowers are pollinated by insects, developing into a glossy red brown conker, encased in a green husk with prickly spines, which then fall in autumn.

Conkers are toxic and may cause severe discomfort if eaten, although certain mammals are able to eat them without any problems.


Cultivation of a Horse Chestnut Tree

Fast growing, the Horse Chestnut tree prefers a moist, well drained soil and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, including dry sandy soil, wet clay and chalk but does not tolerate salt spray.

It fairs well in both sheltered and exposed positions and needing either full sun or partial shade, it is generally a low maintenance tree.


Pests & Diseases

Half of all Horse Chestnut trees in Britain are now showing symptoms, to some degree, of bleeding Canker, a potentially lethal infection for which there are no treatments available and the only solution is to fell and remove a tree if it becomes dangerous.

Other diseases can be leaf blotch, wood rotting fungi and Horse Chestnut scale.

In recent years leaf mining moths have started to affect many UK trees.

First discovered in Wimbledon, it has quickly spread nationwide.

These moths infest trees and damage the foliage causing the leaves to develop large brown blotches and fall early.

There is no evidence at present to suggest that infestation causes a decline in the trees health owing to the fact that damage occurs very late in the growing season, although repeated yearly attacks will eventually do so.

Regularly inspect your Horse Chestnut trees for early signs of any of these diseases before they become a danger from falling branches and dead material.

As soon as you are concerned about the health of your tree, contact a qualified professional tree surgeon who will be able to advise the best course of action to take.


Best Time for Pruning

The Horse Chestnut is not normally pruned but any badly placed branches should be cut back in the winter whilst the tree is dormant, this work is best done by a professional tree surgeon due to the size of most Horse Chestnut trees and the weight of branches.

If you require a crown lift or reduction, again this would most certainly need to be carried out by a professional tree surgeon.


Article was written by Karen Arnold.

Edited by Conner D on 01/07/2019.

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