Global menu

The Green pages

Horsechestnut

English
  • Trees and Shrubs
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum 'Memmingeri')
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Robert Mineau)
Aesculus hippocastanum 'Memmingeri'.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum 'Memmingeri'.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii'.

Onglets

Botany

Origin and description

The genus name Aesculus is the Latin word for any tree that produces fruit fed to livestock. It is from the Greek word aesca, which means “nourishing.” Hippocastanum is the contraction of two Greek words, hippos and kastanon, for “horse” and “chestnut.” Aesculus hippocastanum was named for the fact that its fruit resembles that of the European chestnut (Castanea sativa). Horsechestnuts used to be fed to horses, in fact. These trees are native to southeastern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. They were taken from Constantinople (Istanbul) and introduced in Europe around 1615 and in the United States about one hundred years later.

Double-flowered horse chestnut has blackish, fissured and scaly bark. Its buds are sticky in winter and tend to open very early in spring, making them vulnerable to early frost. The leaves are divided into five or seven leaflets, dark green above and lighter green below; the palmate veins are covered in tiny brown hairs. The flowers are white with yellow and red spots. They appear in early May and have a pleasant fragrance. The type species produces globular fruit in a light green husk covered in soft spines that releases one or two large, round, shiny brown seeds. Although they are often confused with European chestnuts, horsechestnuts are not edible.

The tree has a rounded crown and grows to 25 metres.

Species, cultivars and related plants

'Baumannii': Resembles the species, but remains smaller (20 m). The flowers are double and longer lasting. They are sterile, which means that they do not produce any fruit. Zone 5b.

'Memmingeri': Resembles the species, but with pale green spring foliage (pale leaf blade and dark veins). Pale grey bark streaked with black. Attractive foliage and very regular shape.

'Umbraculifera': Resembles the species except for its clearly spherical form. Very lush foliage. Insignificant flowers. Zone 3b.

Common name

Horsechestnut

Latin name (genus)

Aesculus hippocastanum

English common name

French common name

Botanical family

  • Hippocastanaceae
Horticulture

Growing conditions

Full sun, but ideally not in an overly hot site.

Rich, deep, fertile, even slightly alkaline soil.

This tree is drought intolerant, and its leaves may turn yellow in summer if it lacks water.

Easy to grow?

Drought intolerant.

Pruning and maintenance

Can be pruned after flowering.

Use

May be grown singly or grouped in large sites. Because the fruit is large and hard, these trees should not be planted near streets and public parks.

Hardiness

  • Zone 4b
Pests and diseases
Physiological disorders

Add this