Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
While not native to North America, the Horse Chestnut is quite similar to the Ohio Buckeye but is not quite as hardy and does not grow as tall. Its fruit husks are not as spiny as Ohio Buckeye husks. Sometimes called European Horse Chestnut, this tall tree is indigenous to the Balkans. It was brought from Constantinople and introduced into France in 1615. The name Horse Chestnut came about as the Turks used to feed chestnuts to their horses.
The Horse Chestnut is a beautiful, round-headed tree somewhat suited for use in medium to large yards. It is a slow grower reaching up to 35 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Like the Red Buckeye, this tree has long, dense clusters or candles of single, bright-white, pink or red flowers and are favored by hummingbirds. The blossoms also attract butterflies.
This tree produces fruits that are made up of a spiny capsule containing one to three large seeds, known affectionately by ten year old boys as “ammunition”. Besides being excellent missiles, the Horse Chestnut nuts have been used as fodder for farm animals. Because the nuts have a high tannin content, they must be shelled, crushed and leached overnight in cold water before they can be used. They are then strained and boiled for half an hour. The meal from the nuts is dried and used as fodder for animals. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to but in some situations it was used to save the scarce grain which was needed by the humans on the farm.
The bark and nuts of the Horse Chestnut have been used for medical purposes in many parts of the world. Its bark is extremely useful in phytotherapy, as it is highly effective in treating blood circulation disorders. Bark extract has been used to treat fevers and ulcers. The nuts have been used to treat rheumatism, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. For a long time now, Horse Chestnut flour has been utilized cosmetically to give the skin extra radiance. The pulp is also used for making soap
Horse Chestnut Choices
Baumannii is a cultivar that will grow to 70 feet tall with an oval shape. It has double white flowers, grows slower than the species, and does not produce any nuts. Pendula has drooping branches. Pyramidalis is upright. Rubicunda has flowers that are salmon red. Tortuosa has a contorted growth habit.