Aesculus hippocastanum which is also known as Horse-chestnut or Conker tree is a large deciduous tree. It is native to southeast Europe, in small areas in northern Greece, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. It can grow up to a height of 36metres.
The shoots of this plant are stout and resinous with sticky buds. The leaves are palmately divided, compound and are very large and opposite to about 13-30 cm in length and about 65 cm across. The flowers are pollinated by insects and have 4-5 petals and are showy. The fruit is about 2-5 cm in diameter and is in the form of a capsule. The fruit has 1-3 seeds per capsule.
It is known as horse chestnut as this is known to cure horses of its chest complaints. These seeds were majorly used in France and in Switzerland for mainly whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool. The soapy juice was used to take spots out of both linen and wool. It was a tree for beer garden too. Its conker seeds are used in jwelery.
There are diseases too associated with this tree as below:
- Bleeding Canker: Half of all Horse-chestnuts in Great Britain are showing symptoms to some degree of this potentially lethal bacterial infection.
- Guignardia leaf blotch, caused by the fungus Guignardia aesculi
- Wood rotting fungi, e.g. such as Armillaria and Ganoderma
- Horse-chestnut scale, caused by the insect Pulvinaria regalis
- Horse-chestnut leaf miner, Cameraria ohridella, a leaf mining moth.
- Phytophthora bleeding canker, a fungal infection.
Growing/Caring conditions for Aesculus hippocastanum:
- Plant the seeds in an area where the plant shall receive sunlight at least few hours every day.
- This plant can grow in full shade but direct sunlight is preferred.
- The tree shall produce vibrant flowers and a full crown in direct sunlight.
- Mix the soil with compost in the planting area.
- The plant grows well in rich and loamy soils.
- Plant the seed in early spring.
- Water thoroughly after placing the seed and covering it with soil of thin layer.
- There should be no risk of frost.
- Seeds begin to germinate within few weeks of sowing.
- Water regularly for growth.
- Once the plant is established regular watering can be stopped.
- Maintain evenly moist soil
- Irrigate for moistening the soil to the roots.
- Add mulch to retain moisture.
- Fertilize the plant with water-soluble fertilizer each year.
- Prune the plant in late winter to remove the damaged, dead and effected branches.
- This plant can be affected by white-marked tussock moths and Japanese beetles so prevention should be done.