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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

10 May, 2010

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Of all our mature trees surely the Horse Chestnut has the most striking display of flowers. The wonderful flower spikes make the tree look like an enormous candelabra!

It was the flower display that led the Horse Chestnut to be here in this country in the first place. It is native to the Balkans and Asia Minor and was brought here to adorn our park lands as long ago as the sixteenth century. Five hundred years and its still not a local - its unlikely I am ever going to be accepted as a local here in Dorset as I have not done five years yet!

The Horse Chestnut is a prominent tree, usually found in avenues and in clusters in ornamental parks but some have self seeded elsewhere.

When I was young we used to collect the conkers to use in conker fights and tradition had it that if you buried one for a while it would make it hard. I guess if you do not go back and unearth it then there is a pretty good bet that a Horse Chestnut tree will appear.

Not only are the flower spikes and the conkers key features of this tree, it has a large, imposing frame, large seven-lobed leaves and, of course, has 'sticky buds' in spring. At junior school we used to put some twigs with sticky buds in a jam jar of water and watch them open

Not a native but welcome none the less I think.