Go bonkers for
The wonderful Horse Chestnut – scientific name Aesculus hippocastanum – while not native to the UK, is loved by many so we've decided to include it in our exTREEme explorer series. Native to the Balkans, it was first introduced to Britain in the 16th Century and has planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens ever since. The horse chestnut grows very quickly and can reach heights of 40 meters and live to up to 300 years. While tall and straight, the horse chestnut is not a good source of timber, due the soft and spongy nature of its wood. It's best known for its autumn fruits, known as conkers.
You can find a horse chestnut by its light greenish-grey bark and its wide spreading branches. In winter, the horse chestnut has buds which are protected by a sticky coating. This coating melts in spring to allow the leaves to burst through. Five or seven dark green, serrated-edged leaves can be seen on each single stem. Flowers also appear in the spring, on candle-like spears, and – once pollinated – turn into the conkers, which fall from the trees in autumn.