Horse Chestnut tree: flowering, where it grows and what it looks like

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Botanical name: Horse chestnut (Aesculus) , also called esculus or acorn, is a genus of trees or shrubs from the Sapindaceae family, many of which are widely used in culture for landscaping cities and parks.

  • Homeland of horse chestnut: Europe, Asia, North America.
  • Lighting: relatively shade-tolerant.
  • Soil: loose, sandy or loamy.
  • Watering: the plant is moisture-loving.
  • Maximum tree height: up to 30 m.
  • Average lifespan of a tree: 200-300 years.
  • Landing: propagated by root shoots, seeds, less often cuttings or layering.

Description of the horse chestnut plant with a flower photo: what it looks like and when it blooms

Most species of horse chestnut are trees up to 30 m high with a densely leafy spherical or broad pyramidal crown, slender, massive dark gray trunks, initially smooth, covered with longitudinal cracks with age. Shrub forms are more compact, grow up to 4-5 m. The root system is superficial, sensitive to soil compaction; in urban conditions, powerful roots can even lift the road surface.

Leaves of all species without stipules, very large, long-petiolate, opposite, rounded palmate-complex shape with 5-11 toothed lobes. The flowers are brightly colored, up to 2 cm in diameter, bell-shaped, collected in tall, up to 30 cm, erect pyramidal inflorescences-brushes called thyrsus. Each chestnut flower has four or five tiled, free petals of different sizes and five partially fused at the base or free sepals. The color of the petals can be white, pink, red. The flowering time of chestnuts depends on the species, the most common forms in Russia bloom in early May, some bloom in early June, others in July-August.

The fruits ripen in September-October, they are fleshy spherical tricuspid boxes up to 6 cm in diameter, green in color, with a spiny surface. The fruit usually contains one large, shiny, slightly flattened seed covered with a thick dark brown skin.

Currently, the plant is widely distributed in the temperate and subtropical zones around the world, but is mainly represented by cultivated plantings. Considering the question of where chestnut grows in natural conditions, we note that most species are of North American origin, only a few forms can be found in the mountain forests of Southeast Asia and India, and only one or two varieties are found in Southern Europe. The significant fragmentation of the habitat indicates a much wider distribution of the genus in the geological past, which is also confirmed by paleontological studies.

How and where does the horse chestnut tree grow in Russia?

Many representatives of the genus are highly decorative, considered one of the most beautiful park trees. They are attractive throughout the year, in the spring when the chestnut blossoms, it is decorated with large erect candles of inflorescences, in the summer the dense spreading crown provides extensive shade, in the autumn the bright brown-yellow foliage gives a colorful appearance to the tree. In addition, horse chestnuts are unpretentious plants and well adapted to urban conditions, they are resistant to gas pollution and dust, and are almost not affected by diseases and pests. The undoubted advantages include high durability, since the chestnut grows, especially during the first 10 years, very slowly, in natural conditions its life expectancy can reach 200-300 years, in cities and parks with proper care it is also very significant.

It is not surprising that plantings of these wonderful trees can be found in various parts of the world. In Europe, they have been bred as an ornamental crop since the second half of the 16th century, after the famous Austrian botanist Clausius in 1575 grew seedlings from seeds obtained in Turkey and planted them in Vienna. After 30 years, horse chestnut plants appeared in France, then spread throughout Europe, then came to North America.

In Russia, horse chestnuts do not grow wild, but have long been widely used as a park culture, are habitual inhabitants of the streets and green areas of Russian cities.

Some species have healing properties, due to which they are used in folk and traditional medicine. The first known description of the chestnut as a medicinal plant was by the Italian physician Pietro Mattioli, who recommended that the fruit be used to treat shortness of breath in horses. In the future, decoctions and tinctures from the bark, flowers and peel of the fruit began to be used to treat people, externally – for arthritis, gout, rheumatism, inside – for asthma and bronchitis. In the twentieth century, official medicine recognized the beneficial properties of chestnut, finding in it substances that help reduce blood clotting. Fruit preparations are recommended for the treatment of thrombophlebitis, hemorrhoids, and even eyelid disease, atherosclerosis.

On the territory of Russia, 13 types of horse chestnuts are grown, photos and descriptions of some of the most common are given below.

Horse chestnut (A. hippocastanum) , a powerful tree that grows up to 25-30 m in the southern regions of Europe and Ukraine, 12-15 m in central Russia, where conditions are not so favorable for it.

What a common horse chestnut looks like is known to any inhabitant of our country, since it is this species that is ubiquitous in our parks, squares, and is widely used for landscaping streets both in the south of the country and in more northern regions. The tree has a beautiful crown with a slender trunk and spreading branches, in the lower part with age hanging down almost to the ground. It has large long-petiolate palmate leaves with a ribbed surface, pale green, painted in bright yellow tones by autumn. Flowering occurs at the beginning of May and lasts up to 3 weeks, at which time the branches are covered with numerous candle-shaped white inflorescences, the size of which can reach 30 cm.

The homeland of the plant is the mountain forests of the south of the Balkan Peninsula, but it is so plastic that it adapts to any conditions.

In the north of Russia, in the Arkhangelsk region, a tree grows no higher than 2 m, often freezes slightly, but successfully recovers, at the latitude of Khabarovsk it can freeze to the soil level, but then grows from the root, and in Primorsky Krai, despite rather severe winters, it successfully blooms and even bear fruit.

Horse chestnut eight-starred, or yellow (A. Octandra) – a North American species, as well as the previous one, growing well in central Russia. It has a similar crown and similar size, differs in smaller, up to 10-15 cm, inflorescences of pale yellow flowers with purple-pink specks, blooming from late May to late June. Its light green below and dark green above leaves turn bright colors in autumn, but fall off early.

Small-flowered horse chestnut (A. parviflora) is a shrub species endemic to the states of Georgia and Alabama in the USA, more suitable for growing in the southern regions of our country.

At home, its crown reaches a height and diameter of 4 m, in the Moscow region, in protected places, it does not exceed 0.5 m. Needs winter shelter. Interestingly, where the chestnut of this species blooms in nature, it is pollinated by night butterflies and hummingbirds.

Horse chestnut pavia (A. pavia) – an inhabitant of the Atlantic coast of North America, is popular in Europe, freezes slightly in the temperate regions of Russia and almost does not bloom. Under natural conditions, it grows up to 10 m, in culture – no higher than 3-6 m, valued for bright, pink-red flowers blooming in May, collected in fluffy panicles up to 15 cm long.

Its hybrid with eight-starred chestnut, the so-called hybrid horse chestnut (A. x hybrida) , is more winter-hardy. In our climatic zone, it does not reach a height of 20 m, as in the south, limiting itself to 6-9 m, but it successfully blooms and bears fruit, while flowers of various shades can bloom on one tree, which makes it even more decorative.

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