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Horse Chestnut – Root and Branch Review

Horse Chestnut tree

Conker collecting has encouraged many a stick to be thrown into a Horse Chestnut tree. The candle or flower heads are even more spectacular than the crop of conkers that they give birth too.

Key Features of the Horse Chestnut

  • Latin name Aesculus Hippocastanum buckeye in USA or Conker tree
  • Height up to 130 feet
  • Type of tree – deciduous –
  • Leaves – Large green palmate with 5-7 fingers or leaflets
  • Flowers White or pink candle shaped upright panicles
  • Fruit Green spiky spherical husks containing a glossy brown inedible seed or conker
  • Bark Dark brown, coarse and scaly when mature
  • Family Aesculus has about 20 species


Origins and Distribution of the Horse Chestnut

  • Native to the Balkans.
  • Planted in temperate zones as an ornamental specimen.

Uses and Attributes of the Horse Chestnut

  • Distilled the conkers make acetone.
  • The seed extracts were used for fulling cloth and whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool.
  • Herbally used to treat varicose veins and haemorrhoids.

Gardeners Tips for the Horse Chestnut

  • Used along avenues, parks and in churchyards.
  • Horse Chestnuts can make large bonsai.

candles in the wind

Other types of Horse Chestnut and key species

  • Texas, californian and other american buckeye or Aesculus species.
  • Aesculus × carnea the red horse chestnut.

Horse Chestnut comments from elsewhere

In Britain, the return to school after the summer holidays is synonymous with conkers. Originally played with cobnuts or snail shells, the use of the horse chestnut in the popular children’s game was first recorded in 1848. Since 1965, the World Conker Championships have taken place every year in Oundle, Northamptonshire. Kew.org

The fruits of this tree vaguely resemble those of the (Sweet) Chestnut tree but they are not related. They develop in prickly cases, and are ripe in September and October – the ‘conker’ season.

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets

“Horse Chestnut tree by JeanM1 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Conkers by MamaPyjama CC BY 2.0


Rowan – Mountain Ash – Root and Branch Review

mountain ash

The Rowan or Mountain Ash is a member of the same family as the rose and is part of the large Sorbus genus. The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Key Features of the Mountain Ash

  • Latin name – Sorbus aucuparia other common names Rowan, Whitebeam trees or European Mountain Ash
  • Height – up to 50 feet
  • Type of tree – Deciduous
  • Leaves – pinnate with terminal leaflet andtwo rows of long, green, serrated, oblong leaflets
  • Flowers – large flat-headed clusters in creamy white. scented
  • Fruit – orange to red berries half inch diameter
  • Bark – smooth silver-grey
  • Family – Rosaceae

Origins and Distribution of the Mountain Ash

  • At home on high ground.
  • Common in the UK and Europe.

Mountain panorama with rowan

Uses and Attributes of the Mountain Ash

  • Valued for the Rowans ornamental qualities.
  • Berries are great bird food.
  • Revered by Druids, Norse and in Greek legend to ward off evil spirits
  • Rowan jelly made from the berries is a traditional ‘tart’, accompaniment to game and venison.

Rowan DSCF8583

Gardeners Tips for the Mountain Ash

  • The berries and colourful autumn leaves make this a good and hardy specimen tree.
  • Berries can vary in colour depending on the species from white, yellow, red or orange.
  • Grows well even in very acid soil but may not live as long on thin chalky soil


Other types of Mountain Ash

  • Sorbus is a large genus including hardy trees grown for ornamental qualities that include attractive flowers, ornamental foliage which colour richly in autumn and produce berry like fruit.
  • There are 3 sections of Sorbus; Aucuparia sorbus have pinnate leaves with numerous leaflets. Aria section have simple toothed and lobed leaves while Micromeles group are similar to Aria but have deciduous calyces.
  • Sorbus aucuparia has 5 sub species and a parent to numerous hybrids.
  • Sorbus aucuparia ‘Beissneri’ and Sorbus aucuparia ‘Fastigiata’ have an AGM.

Mountain Ash comments from elsewhere

  • ‘The rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the first woman was made, (the first man being made from the ash tree). It was said to have saved the life of the god Thor by bending over a fast flowing river in the Underworld in which Thor was being swept away, and helping him back to the shore’. Trees for Life.
  • In the UK the Rowan is known as a tree associated with witchcraft, protecting people and dwellings.

Sorbus berries on mountain ash

Rowan DSCF8583 by hedgerowmobile CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Mountain panorama with rowan by moonlightbulb CC BY 2.0
Lijsterbes by ednl CC BY 2.0

Read about our series on British tree reviews with a bakers dozen fact sheets


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