Horse Chestnut

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Horse chestnut

Scientific name: Aesculus hippocastanum
A tall, broad tree of woodlands, roadsides and parks, the introduced horse chestnut is familiar to many of us the 'conker' producing tree - its shiny, brown seeds appearing in their spiny cases in autumn.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 40m

Conservation status

Introduced, but naturalised species. Listed as near threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December

About

The horse chestnut is a tall, broad tree that has been widely planted in parks and gardens. Originally native to the mountains of northern Greece and Albania, it was introduced into the UK in 1616 and has since become naturalised. In April and May, rows of horse chestnuts lining roads and in woodlands provide a spectacular display of 'candles' - large, upright flower spikes ranging in colour from white to deep pink. In autumn, it sheds its spiny-cased seeds, known as conkers.

How to identify

The horse chestnut has hand-shaped, palmate leaves with five to seven toothed leaflets. It displays large, pinky-white flower spikes, and its spiny-shelled fruits contain the seeds, or 'conkers'.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The conkers of the horse chestnut are collected by children everywhere for competitions: attached to strings, two conkers are alternately flicked at each other until one breaks. Taking this a step further, the world conker championships are held at Ashton in Northamptonshire in October every year.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts record and monitor our local wildlife to understand the effects of various factors on their populations, such as the introduction of new species. You can help with this vital monitoring work by becoming a volunteer - you'll not only help local wildlife but learn new skills and make new friends along the way.