Botanical Name: Aesculus hippocastanum
Common Name: Horse Chestnut
Origin: SE. Europe
Notable Feature: Curious marks (the leaf scars) in the shape of minute horseshoes are found on small branches. Wherever a fallen leaf has been, there is a perfect facsimile of a horseshoe, even including the seven nail markings.
Habit: A medium to large deciduous tree that typically grows 50 to 75 feet tall and 40 to 65 feet wide with an upright to oval-rounded crown.
Flower: Showy white flowers with 4 to 5 petals and a red spot at each base are borne in 12-inch long, upright terminal panicles in mid-spring, appearing as “candles” ornamenting the tree. Flowers are perfect (bisexual).
Fruit: Light brown, spiny, 2” diameter capsule containing one or two seeds that ripen in fall. Fruit on the tree is interesting but not particularly ornamental. When ripe, each horse chestnut (aka “conkers” in England) turns a handsome shiny dark mahogany brown with a round light tan scar.
Foliage: Opposite, palmately compound, 4- to 10-inch long, light green leaves, consisting of 5 to 7 leaflets emerge in spring from large, sticky, reddish brownish buds. Leaves mature to dark green in summer. Fall color usually consists of undistinguished shades of yellow and brown.
Bark: Dark gray to brown with irregular plate-like scales.
Interesting Fact: The common name originated in the erroneous belief that the tree was a type of chestnut that, despite being poisonous to horses, cured horses of chest complaints.