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TREES & plants

Horse chestnut

Horse-chestnut tree in full flower.

Horse chestnut is a large tree known for showy flowers in May. The clusters of white flowers may be 6 inches tall or more. This non-native can be messy when its fruit drops and offers little in the way of fall color. 

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

 

Botanical name: 
Aesculus hippocastanum
All Common Names: 
horse-chestnut, horse chestnut, common horse-chestnut
Family (English): 
Soapberry (formerly Horse-chestnut)
Family (Botanic): 
Sapindaceae (formerly Hippocastanaceae)
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median, 
  • Restricted sites
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-75 feet
Mature Width: 
40-65 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Intolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Spring blossoms, 
  • Showy flowers
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Oval, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • No
Wildlife: 
  • Browsers, 
  • Migrant birds, 
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Avoid very dry situations as they contribute to leaf scorch.

Disease, pests, and problems

Prone to leaf scorch and a fungal leaf blotch (Guignardia).

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the Balkans in Europe.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray and with age, becomes platy with small sections falling away.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Palmately compound leaves in pairs (opposite); 5 to 7 leaflets per leaf.  Each leaflet has a doubly toother margin.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White flowers held in a large, upright cluster in late spring

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The fruit is a seed (the horse chestnut) in a prickly husk.  The seed is poisonous.

Cultivars and their differences

Baumann's horse-chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumannii'):  A double-flowered cultivar that produces no nuts.

 

 

Aesculus hippocastanum or Horse chestnut