Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is native to a small area in the Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Balkan mixed forests of South East Europe. It is widely cultivated in streets and parks throughout the temperate world.
The common name "horse-chestnut" (often unhyphenated) is reported as having originated from the erroneous belief that the tree was a kind of chestnut (though in fact only distantly related), together with the observation that eating the fruit cured horses of chest complaints despite this plant being poisonous to horses.
Horse Chestnut grows to 36 metres (118 ft) tall, with a domed crown of stout branches; on old trees the outer branches often pendulous with curled-up tips. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound, with 5–7 leaflets; each leaflet is 13–30 cm long, making the whole leaf up to 60 cm across, with a 7–20 cm petiole. The leaf scars left on twigs after the leaves have fallen have a distinctive horseshoe shape, complete with seven "nails". The flowers are usually white with a small red spot; they are produced in spring in erect panicles 10–30 cm tall with about 20–50 flowers on each panicle. Usually only 1–5 fruit develop on each panicle; the shell is a green, spiky capsule containing one (rarely two or three) nut-like seeds called conkers or horse-chestnuts. Each conker is 2–4 cm diameter, glossy nut-brown with a whitish scar at the base.
Information from Wikipedia.
Photographs taken on 6 May 2010 along the river Lagan, in Clement's park on the Belfast side of Shaw's bridge, County Antrim, N. Ireland.
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Last updated Thursday April 24, 2014