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Aesculus hippocastanum L.

Horse chestnut

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderSapindalesIncludes citrus; maples, horse-chestnuts, lychees and rambutans; mangos and cashews; frankincense and myrrh; mahogany and neem
FamilySapindaceaeSoapberry family
GenusAesculusMeans “edible acorn” (though some species are definitely not edible)
Specieshippocastanum“Horse chestnut,” because the shape on the stem after a leaf falls looks like a horseshoe

About plant names...

Horse-chestnuts are deciduous trees native to southeastern Europe, though they have become naturalized through many parts of Europe, and are a popular choice for parks and roadsides in the northern United States and Canada. They prefer sun or partial shade, and moist, well-drained soil. Horse-chestnuts are so named because of the leaf scar left on twigs after a leaf falls: a horseshoe shape, with seven “nails.”

Plants: Trees are 50-75′ (15-22 m) in height.

Leaves: Opposite, palmate, comprised of 5-7 leaflets. Each leaflet is 5-12″ (13-30 cm) long.

Flowers: White, with pink and yellow blotches at the base of the petals. They appear in erect, conical panicles 4-12″ (10-30 cm) tall, with 20-50 flowers in each panicle. Flowers appear in May.

Fruits: A leathery light brown husk studded with sharp spines, like a little land mine. The husks dry and crack open to reveal to beautiful smooth rounded mahogany brown chestnut, with a round beige-colored spot. Sometimes there are two or three chestnuts in a husk. Fruits ripen in September.

Edibility: Skull & Crossbones Unlike “real” American chestnuts, horse-chest­nuts are poisonous.

Medical: Horse-chestnut has been used to treat dysentary, bronchitis, hemorrhoids, and vein problems. They contain a wide range of substances that have potential benefits as medicines, but in combination they are not safe, and more research is needed to find applications for the various components. Herbal remedies based on horsechestnut are not regulated, unsafe, and not a substitute for drugs pre­scribed by a doctor.

Online References:


The Missouri Botanical Garden



Aesculus hippocastanum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 6 May 2023.

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Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)

8/15/2010 · Bristol Harbor, Rhode Island

Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)

8/15/2010 · Bristol Harbor, Rhode Island

Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)

5/19/2021 · Highland Green, Topsham, Maine · ≈ 4 × 2½″ (10 × 7 cm)

Range: Zones 3-8:

About this map...