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Aesculus hippocastanum
Horse-chestnut planted as a feature tree in a park
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Sapindaceae
Genus: Aesculus
Species: A. hippocastanum
Binomial name
Aesculus hippocastanum
L.

Aesculus hippocastanum is a large deciduous tree, commonly known as Horse-chestnut or Conker tree.

It is native to a small area in the mountains of the Balkans in southeast Europe, in small areas in northern Greece, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria (Pindus Mountains mixed forests and Balkan mixed forests).[1] It is widely cultivated throughout the temperate world.

Contents

Growth

Foliage and flowers

It grows to 36 m tall, with a domed crown of stout branches, on old trees the outer branches often pendulous with curled-up tips. The leaves are opposite and palmately compound, with 5-7 leaflets; each leaflet is 13-30 cm long, making the whole leaf up to 60 cm across, with a 7-20 cm petiole. The flowers are usually white with a small red spot; they are produced in spring in erect panicles 10-30 cm tall with about 20-50 flowers on each panicle. Usually only 1-5 fruit develop on each panicle; the fruit is a green, softly spiky capsule containing one (rarely two or three) nut-like seeds called conkers or horse-chestnuts. Each conker is 2-4 cm diameter, glossy nut-brown with a whitish scar at the base.[2]

Etymology

The common name horse chestnut is reported as having originated from the erroneous belief that the tree was a kind of chestnut, together with the observation that eating them cured horses of chest complaints.[3]

Uses

Leaves and trunk

Cultivation for its spectacular spring flowers is successful in a range of climatic conditions provided summers are not too hot, with trees being grown as far north as Edmonton, Alberta,[4] the Faroe Islands,[5] and Harstad, Norway. In more southern areas, growth is best in cooler mountain climates.

In Britain and Ireland, the nuts are used for the popular children's game conkers. During the two world wars, horse-chestnuts were used as a source of starch which in turn could be used via the Clostridium acetobutylicum fermentation method devised by Chaim Weizmann to produce acetone. This acetone was then used as a solvent which aided in the process of ballistite extrusion into cordite, which was then used in military armaments.

The nuts, especially those that are young and fresh, are slightly poisonous, containing alkaloid saponins and glucosides. Although not dangerous to touch, they cause sickness when eaten. Some mammals, notably deer, are able to break down the toxins and eat them safely. They are reputed to be good for horses with wind, but this is unproven and feeding them to horses is not advisable. The saponin aescin, however, has been used for health purposes (such as varicose veins, edema, sprains) and is available in food supplements, as is a related glucoside aesculin.[6]

A selection of fresh conkers from a Horse-chestnut.

In the past, Horse-chestnut seeds were used in France and Switzerland for whitening hemp, flax, silk and wool. They contain a soapy juice, fit for washing of linens and stuffs, for milling of caps and stockings, etc., and for fulling of cloth. For this, 20 horse-chestnut seeds were sufficient for six liters of water. They were peeled, then rasped or dried, and ground in a malt or other mill. The water must be soft, either rain or river water; hard well water will not work. The nuts are then steeped in cold water, which soon becomes frothy, as with soap, and then turns milky white. The liquid must be stirred well at first, and then, after standing to settle, strained or poured off clear. Linen washed in this liquid, and afterwards rinsed in clear running water, takes on an agreeable light sky-blue colour. It takes spots out of both linen and wool, and never damages or injures the cloth.

In Bavaria the chestnut is the typical tree for a beer garden. Originally they were planted for their deep shade which meant that beer cellar owners could cut ice from local rivers and lakes in winter to cool the Märzen Lager beer well into summer. Nowadays guests enjoy the shade to keep their heads cool - even after the second Maß (a mug with a liter of beer).

"Whitening" fluorescent aesculin (aescin) from bark

Conkers have been threatened by the leaf-mining moth Cameraria ohridella, whose larvae feed on horse chestnut leaves. The moth was described from Macedonia where the species was discovered in 1984 but took 18 years to reach Britain [7] .

Aesculus hippocastanum is used in Bach flower remedies. When the buds are used it is referred to as "Chestnut Bud" and when the flowers are used it is referred to as "White Chestnut".

The flower is the symbol of the city of Kiev, capital of Ukraine.[8]

Germination on lawn

Horse-chestnuts can be used to make jewelry using the conkers as beads.

Trunk

Although the Horse-chestnut is sometimes known as the buckeye, this name is generally reserved for the New World members of the Aesculus genus.

A famous specimen is the Anne Frank Tree, a horse chestnut in the center of Amsterdam which she mentioned in her diary and which survives there to the present.

Conkers are rumoured to keep spiders away if they are placed in the corners of a room. [9]

Diseases

  • Bleeding Canker. Half of all Horse-chestnuts in Great Britain are now showing symptoms to some degree of this potentially lethal bacterial infection.[10]
  • Guignardia leaf blotch, caused by the fungus Guignardia aesculi
  • Wood rotting fungi, e.g. such as Armillaria and Ganoderma
  • Horse-chestnut scale, caused by the insect Pulvinaria regalis
  • Horse-chestnut leaf miner, Cameraria ohridella, a leaf mining moth.[11]
  • Phytophthora bleeding canker, a fungal infection.[12]

References

  1. ^ Euro+Med Plantbase Project: Aesculus hippocastanum
  2. ^ Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  3. ^ Lack, H. Walter. "The Discovery and Rediscovery of the Horse Chestnut". Arnoldia 61 (4). http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/628.pdf.  
  4. ^ Edmonton
  5. ^ Højgaard, A., Jóhansen, J., & Ødum, S. (1989). A century of tree planting on the Faroe Islands. Ann. Soc. Sci. Faeroensis Supplementum 14.
  6. ^ "Aesculin". Plant Poisons. http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/gerrard/aesculin.html.  
  7. ^ Lees, D.C.; Lopez-Vaamonde, C.; Augustin, S. 2009. Taxon page for Cameraria ohridella Deschka & Dimic 1986. In: EOLspecies, http://www.eol.org/pages/306084. First Created: 2009-06-22T13:47:37Z. Last Updated: 2009-08-10T12:57:23Z.
  8. ^ Kiev
  9. ^ Royal Society of Chemistry (5 October 2009). "Are spiders scared of conker chemicals?". Press Release. http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/News/PressReleases/2009/SpidersHateConkers.asp. Retrieved 2009-10-11.  
  10. ^ "Extent of the bleeding canker of horse chestnut problem". UK Forestry Commission. http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/website/forestresearch.nsf/ByUnique/INFD-6KYBN2. Retrieved 2010-01-09.  
  11. ^ "Other common pest and disease problems of horse chestnut". UK Forestry Commission. http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/website/forestresearch.nsf/ByUnique/INFD-6KYC5F. Retrieved 2010-01-09.  
  12. ^ "Phytophthora bleeding canker". Royal Horticultural Society. 11 November 2009. http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?PID=244. Retrieved 2010-01-09.  

External links

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Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Aesculus hippocastanum

Taxonavigation

Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Sapindales
Familia: Sapindaceae
Genus: Aesculus
Sectio: A. sect. Aesculus
Species: Aesculus hippocastanum

Name

Aesculus hippocastanum L., Sp. Pl., 344. 1753.

Typus: LT: Herb. Clifford: 142, Aesculus No. 1 (BM)

Synonyms

Homotypic
  • Aesculus procera Salisb., Prodr. : 280. 1796, nom. illeg.
  • Aesculus septenata Stokes, Bot. Mat. Med., 2 : 337. 1812, nom. illeg.
  • Esculus hipocastanea (L.) Raf., Fl. Med. vol. 2, 219. 1830.
  • Hippocastanum aesculus Cav., Descr. Pl. Lecc. Publ., 458. 1827.
  • Hippocastanum vulgare Gaertn., Fruct. sem. pl. vol. 2, 135, t. 3. 1791.
  • Pawia hippocastanum (L.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl., 1 : 146. 1891.
Heterotypic
  • Aesculus asplenifolia Loud., Encyc. Trees, 124.
  • Aesculus castanea Gilib., Fl. Lit. Inch. vol. 2, 197. 1782.
  • Aesculus heterophylla hort. ex Handl. Trees Kew Pt. 1. (Polypet.) 83. 1894.
  • Aesculus ohiotensis Lindl., Bot. Reg. vol. 24, t. 51. 1838, non A. ohioensis Michx. (1810).
  • Aesculus hippocastanum f. beaumanii (C.K.Schneid.) Dole, Fl. Vermont (Dole), ed. 3 185. 1937.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum f. laciniata (Jacq.) Schelle
  • Aesculus hippocastanum f. pendula (Puvill.) Rehder, Bibl. Cult. Trees 430. 1949.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum f. pyramidalis Henry
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. argenteovariegata Loudon, Arbor. Frutic. Brit. 1: 463. 1838.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. aureovariegata Loudon, Arbor. Frutic. Brit. 1: 463. 1838.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. asplenifolia hort.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. beaumanii Schneid.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. dissecta hort.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. flore-pleno Loudon, Arbor. Frutic. Brit. 1: 463. 1838.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. incisa Booth ex Loud., Encycl. Trees Shrubs 124. 1842.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. laciniata Jacq.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. pendula Puvill., Rev. Hort. n.s., 17: 281. 1921.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. pumila Dipp.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. umbraculifera Jaeg.
  • Aesculus hippocastanum var. variegata Loudon, Arbor. Frutic. Brit. 1: 463. 1838.
  • Aesculus incisa hort. ex Handl. Trees Kew Pt. 1. (Polypet.) 83. 1894.
  • Aesculus memmingeri C.Koch, Dendrologie 1: 506. 1869.
  • Aesculus procera Salisb., Prodr. Stirp. Chap. Allerton 280. 1796.
  • Aesculus septenata Stokes, Bot. Mat. Med. 2. 337. 1812.

Hybrids

References

Data compiled from various sources by Mark W. Skinner. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Rosskastanie
English: Horse chestnut
Español: Castaño de Indias
Français: Marronier
Galego: Castiñeiro de Indias, Castiñeiro das bruxas
Hrvatski: Divlji kesten
Italiano: Ippocastano, castagna amara, castagne di cavalle
Русский: Конский каштан обыкновенный
Suomi: Hevoskastanja
Svenska: Hästkastanj
Українська: Гіркокаштан звичайний
中文: 歐洲七葉樹
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Aesculus hippocastanum on Wikimedia Commons.

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