Horse chestnut trees

by Pippa Greenwood

I've always loved horse chestnut trees and fondly remember a specimen near the house where I grew up...

Horse chestnut fruitsI've always loved horse chestnut trees and fondly remember a specimen near the house where I grew up. It was massive: beautiful in spring, lush and green in summer and a plentiful source of much-coveted conkers in autumn. Eventually it was deemed to be too close to the houses, and felled. The memory still brings a lump to my throat. 

So I'm thrilled that the house we now live in has a huge horse chestnut nearby - just down the hill and far enough away for its leaves not to land all over the garden. Despite the recent gales it is still clad in fantastic, gold-tinted autumn leaves. It bears traces of the dreaded horse chestnut leaf miner that has infested so many trees in recent years, but it isn' t too badly affected. I regularly inspect its trunk and limbs for signs of bleeding canker, an infection with the capacity to kill thousands of horse chestnut trees. Last time I checked I found no evidence of canker, but I remain fretful about the possibility. 

Our horse chestnut seems much healthier than other specimens one sees. My poor kids are regularly reminded of the tree's beauty, and told not to bring home conkers from anywhere else. I'm not normally one to ban things, but, who knows, it might help. I feel I have to do anything I can to save these majestic trees. 

There was talk of an allium-based treatment for canker, but I haven't yet encountered anyone who has tried it. For now I'll just hold my breath, ban conkers and keep my fingers crossed. Not very scientific!

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Gardeners' World Web User 09/11/2009 at 10:00

My overriding memory of horse chestnut trees is in the spring, when all the flower 'spikes' are first out - a bit like candles.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/11/2009 at 20:04

Where l used to live when l was little. There were a lot of wonderfull horse chest nut trees, now there are just a few, the few that are left are many years old so their very large. Truly majestic

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:39

I was reading recently, that a emigre Russian Jew, Chaim Wiseman responded to the WW1 request for useful inventions. He claimed he could produce acetone needed for the manufacture of explosive shells from horse chestnuts. The process was successful and Churchill gave him 8 gin distilleries to use to produce the acetone. Consequently appeals were made to gather conkers for the distilleries, he wished for no reward, but that his efforts should go towards a Jewish homeland within Palestine. An example of political botany?