Tree Following. March. The Horse Chestnut Tree.

I am joining in with Lucy at LooseandLeafy blog with a new tree this year; Aesculus hippocastanum. I enjoyed writing about the Mulberry Tree last year and I learnt so much about the myths, folklore and historical and literary references to this tree.

This year I decided to choose a tree in my own garden and as this is the oldest and the tallest tree in the garden, I decided this would be the one.  The Horse Chestnut tree is not a native and wasn’t introduced  until the seventeenth century. It comes from the forests of the Balkans in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have so much interesting folklore attached to it, as it is a relative newcomer to this country. When it was first introduced, it grew on the estates of the rich and later in churchyards. Here it is, in my garden at the far end of the orchard.

Aesculus hipppocastrum

Aesculus hipppocastrum

Actually, I have two of these trees. I would love to know who planted them and when.  I wouldn’t have planted one of these giants, never mind two. But there they are, and of course they will stay, as although they take up so much room, they are very majestic. Eventually, they grow so huge; up to 36 metres, that they are unsuitable for gardens really. There are horse chestnut trees in the nearby churchyard, so perhaps someone picked up the conkers and planted them. Or maybe busy squirrels planted them, I find young trees coming up all over the garden. This is the other one which is about the same size.
The leaf scars on the twigs which are left when the leaves fall off, look just like horseshoes. Perhaps this is how the tree got the name, ‘Horse Chestnut’. Or perhaps the name came from the fact that they were thought to cure coughs in horses.  I wonder if this idea arose from the fact that the marks look like horse shoes. Our forefathers believed in the Doctrine of Signatures, which meant that they believed that God had left his signature on plants, as a guide to which ones would heal different complaints.
I love the fat, sticky buds in Winter.
The big advantage of having your own Horse Chestnut tree is being able to pick the sticky buds and put them in a large vase. Then you can watch the leaves unfurling like fingers and the flowers will open eventually too. Here are some I picked a week or two ago.
If you would like to join in with Lucy’s tree following meme the date to remember is the 7th of each month. I am a little late, but the link is open until the 14th March. Do go and visit and learn about the trees that people all over the world are following. Maybe you would like to join in and follow a tree, month by month too.

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48 Responses to Tree Following. March. The Horse Chestnut Tree.

  1. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    Takes me back to my early biology classes – one of the first trees to study and no wonder – its remarkable in so many ways not least the foliage when so much else is bare. Love the garden view and your book choices!

  2. Thanks for this, Chloris. I’ve always liked these trees and there are many of them growing in Ontario. It’s interesting to learn more about them. The Horse Chestnut: does that name only apply to the trees that bear the cream-coloured flowers or the pink ones too?

  3. Christina says:

    I love horse chestnuts, I think they might be my favourite tree so I’m very happy you have chosed to write about it; I’m sure I will learn a lot.

    • Chloris says:

      I love them too. I can’ t remember whether there are many growing in your part of the world. Do you have any near you?

      • Christina says:

        They do grow here, never as large as in the UK there are lots of chestnuts grown commercially on the hills nearby so I see more of those than horse chestnuts but there are some around.

  4. Jane Strong says:

    How nice to read a tree-following blog, or any blog, from you again. They always contain such interesting information. I have a fond place in my heart for horse chestnuts because there was a large one outside my room at Worchester College, Oxford, where I attended summer sessions. It was my friend, giant enveloping arms.

  5. Pauline says:

    The Horse Chestnut is a super tree, but as you say, not for the average garden. We get lots of seedlings in our garden from the squirrels hiding the conkers. When we moved in 25 yrs ago, we had 6 trees, 2 have fallen over since and now we have the moth whose caterpillar burrows between the two layers of the leaves.and makes the leaves look dreadful from July onwards, I hope your tree hasn’t been affected.

    • Chloris says:

      I believe over half the Aesculus hippocastanum trees in the UK are diseased and mine are no exception. They always look perfectly healthy until late Summer though. The leaves then start to look as if they are turning brown prematurely.

  6. Flighty says:

    It’s good to see that you’re tree following again this year. What a wonderful tree you’ve chosen, I’ll enjoy following it through the coming year. xx

  7. Tina says:

    I’m a fan of Jane Austin and in “Pride and Prejudice”, one conversation mentions the Horse Chestnut, as a place where Mr. Darcy ran to and from as a child. I first read “Pride and Prejudice” as a teenager and I never knew exactly what a Horse Chestnut tree was. Now, I’ll get to learn about this magnificent tree. Looking forward!

  8. Chloris says:

    Oh yes, thank you for reminding me, I had forgotten about that. I was trying to remember any literary references to the tree and I could only remember the tree in Jane Eyre.

  9. Anna says:

    Oh I’m pleased to meet your new tree Chloris. I’ve been dithering over which tree to follow this year and was debating whether to go for the horse chestnut at the top of our lane but opted for another this morning 🙂 Our tree is sadly diseased too so now looks its best in spring when the candles are lit. I shall now be racking my brains for the rest of the day thinking of literary references to chesnut trees.

    • Chloris says:

      Oh it would have been fun to write about the same tree, we could have compared notes. I am looking forward to seeing what tree you have decided to follow.
      By the way, my Blonde Inge is flowering beautifully, thank you very much for it.

  10. Angie says:

    The only tree in our local play park when we were kids was a huge Horse Chestnut – we honed our tree climbing skills on it. Happy Childhood Memories. Thanks for the reminder Chloris.

    • Chloris says:

      Perhaps I should try climbing mine, it is years since I climbed a tree. I don’ t know though, I might get stuck, then I would feel an awful fool. You don’ t expect to see women of my age stuck in trees.

  11. mattb325 says:

    I like your choice of tree – I planted one in my garden last year(although they are quite slow to establish). I read about the disease wiping out most of the Horse Chestnuts in Europe, and they aren’t commonly seen in Australia, so I decided to plant one. It’s a handsome tree and I can’t wait to see yours in flower

  12. Debra says:

    Oh, I can’t wait to learn more. I loved your mulberry posts. The leaf scars really do look like horse shoes. That is a great capture. I remember reading about kids ‘playing conkers’ in various stories as I grew up but the game was never actually described. So I imagined something like pooh sticks in Winnie the Pooh where players would throw their ‘boats’ into the river to see whose would win. I see now how wrong that picture was! hahaha

    • Chloris says:

      No, not in like Pooh sticks. Playing conkers can be quite painful, I remember getting bruised knuckles at Conker time. Some children used to bake them in the oven to make them extra hard.

      • Debra says:

        hahaha In no way is it like pooh sticks. And Chloris — ‘some’ kids (wink) but surely not you.

  13. Chloris says:

    The trees can be diseased and carry on. Bleeding Canker first appeared in 2000 when there were only 4 trees infected. Now over half of all horse chestnut trees in this country have the disease. They are also plagued by Horse Chestnut Leaf Mining Moth which disfigures the leaves in late Summer. My trees suffer from this Moth but they look fine for the rest of the year.
    Good luck with your tree.

  14. Alain says:

    I leaned a lot about the mulberry, and look forward to interesting tidbits about the horse chestnut! Thank you Chloris (the name Chloris always reminds me of Reynaldo Hahn’s song “À Chloris”, do you know it? (

  15. Brian Skeys says:

    We have in some ways the best of both worlds, there is a Horse Chestnut tree in our neighbours garden.

    • Chloris says:

      Great that you have chestnut trees in your neighbourhood but not in your garden. They really are too big for gardens, specially when you have two of them.

  16. pbmgarden says:

    I loved seeing the leaf scar. Not sure I’ve seen this tree here but will have to search around.

  17. Cathy says:

    I really enjoyed your Mulberry tree posts last year, and as I love Horse Chestnuts I am sure I will love following this tree too. I am glad you have chosen it, as we don’t see them out in the country much, except at beer gardens where they provide welcome shade!

  18. Cathy says:

    That’s a big one! And I am sure that horseshoe scar is something I used to know (like a lot of other things!) and had forgotten, so it’s good to be reminded of that! And I am ashamed not have remembered the P&P reference either as I thought I knew the book fairly intimately…. 😦

    • Chloris says:

      I had forgotten about the chestnut in P& P too. But the literary references here and in Jane Eyre show how they were considered to be rich mens’ trees growing on country estates. Now anyone with. busy squirrels can have one.

  19. Kris P says:

    A “relative newcomer” from the 17th century – a reminder that the US in general and California in particular has a much briefer recorded history. I enjoyed the Mulberry tree series and look forward to this one.

  20. Very interesting post. Reminds me of a North American species of this genus, A. glabra. The common name is Buckeye, it being thought that the brown fruit looked like a buck’s eye. Early settlers in Ohio were known as Buckeyes, and it is the state tree of Ohio. So there is a bit of plant lore for you, though for a different tree in the same genus.

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’ t know that, thank you. I’ m always glad to learn more Aesculus facts or factoids. I think I might struggle to find something fresh and interesting each month to write about it.

  21. Julie says:

    I am glad you are following another tree, I really enjoyed reading your reports on the Mulberry Tree. Interesting to read about the Doctrine of Signatures too.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Julie. I hope I will be able to unearth interesting things about chestnut trees.The mulberry was so much easier with all the history and myths.

  22. Yours is such a stately-looking tree. It seems to be reaching its branches toward heaven! I look forward to seeing the changes in it next month. It’s interesting to wonder how trees get their names, isn’t it? Sometimes its for the craziest reasons!

    • Chloris says:

      Of all the crazy ideas, the Doctrine of Signatures was the silliest. Wise women who actually had knowledge of healing herbs were burnt as witches and our forefathers said ‘Oh look at those leaves they look just like lungs, so clearly God is telling us that they cure lung disease.’

  23. I am looking forward to learning more about this tree….a most interesting tree.

  24. snowbird says:

    Now, even though I have a couple of these trees, thankfully smaller than yours, I have never noticed that horse shoe shape where the leaves have been! You live and learn eh! Good you have them indoors uncurling, they are, as you say, majestic looking trees! I look forward to finding out more,xxx

  25. Chloris says:

    You have a couple of these trees too? Have you noticed how big they grow? Still they are gorgeous trees. The buds on mine are just beginning to open.

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