Native to Albania and Greece, the Horse Chestnut was introduced to Britain in 1616 and is now common in parks, village greens and city streets. It is easily recognised by its leaves, its spectacular flowers in spring and its production of ‘conkers’ in autumn. It can be confused with the Red Horse Chestnut, which is a hybrid between the Red Buckeye and the Horse Chestnut. It was introduced to Britain before 1818, after being discovered in Germany. It has been planted widely in Britain in parks, gardens and streets. Its crumpled leaves, red flowers and generally smaller size distinguish it from the Horse Chestnut. It is not long-lived.
A young Horse Chestnut in late May.
A Red Horse Chestnut in early May.
The flowers of the Horse Chestnut appear from late April to mid May, although some trees can be much earlier. This photograph shows the flowers fully open at the end of May. The flowers are arranged in a vertical cluster known as a ‘panicle’, sometimes called a ‘candle’. Flowers at the top are male, those at the bottom are female and those in the middle are bisexual. Female or bisexual flowers produce fruit when pollinated by bees.
The flowers of the Red Horse Chestnut are arranged like the Horse Chestnut but they are red. The colour is inherited from the Red Buckeye. Photo taken at the end of April.
The fruit of the Horse Chestnut develops so that the seed is surrounded by a green spiky ‘husk’ by the end of August. The ‘husk’ splits ready for the seed – known as a ‘conker’ – to fall to the ground in September.
The fruit of the Red Horse Chestnut is a capsule like the Horse Chestnut but the husk has fewer spines. The nut inside the husk is smaller than the Horse Chestnut ‘conker’. Photo taken near the end of October.